(little) Pink Studio. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 32 x 40. 2023
Stepping into the bright and warmly lit Jack Hanley Gallery in Tribeca, I was struck by the brilliant swirl of color in Sophie Treppendahl’s exhibition of new work. The pieces seem ready to pop right off of the walls. The show exists in two connected parts, encompassing both floors of the gallery. Vibrant paintings of domestic scenes on the ground floor and small dioramas of similar domestic spaces in the downstairs gallery.
The paintings, which are either oil and acrylic on canvas or encaustic on panel, portray intimate interior scenes in the life of an artist. The subject matter is small in concept, but large in execution and psychology. Scenes in the studio, the view out a window, a bedroom. Simple daily rituals. The magic is in the rendering. Treppendal’s paintings are suffused with rich and saturate color. Her nuanced use of the varying tones of a single color is remarkable. “4 pm” is a large oil and acrylic work of a model in the studio. The painting is radiant in shades and tones of yellow. The model sits solemnly in a chair at the back of the room. Her presence all but melted into the room. It’s that gorgeous, long afternoon light yellow that warms the soul and makes everything beautiful. A simple set-up transformed by complex tone and color.
4 pm. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 44 x 50. 2023
These paintings are formal and old-fashioned in the best sense. Rather than rely on razzle-dazzle, painterly gimmicks, or artistic cliches, Treppendahl has stepped back in time to an earlier mid-century aesthetic and embraced it fully. The paintings are not nostalgic for a past era, but they convey a sense of calm and painterly concentration that feels more tied to the past than the present. A painterly mise en scene. They are quiet portraits of the artist’s studio or maybe of the artist. The female figure who occasionally drifts into focus is almost dreamlike, perhaps imagined self-portraits of the artist in her home and studio.
Palette. Encaustic on panel. 20 x 20. 2023
One of my favorite pieces is Palette, a small encaustic work that is a detail of a painter’s palette/table. Interestingly it is the only “close-up” shot in the show, and it is the piece that dances closest to abstraction. Everything has been reduced to its most elemental. Brushes are shaky sticks with blobs on their ends. The strong scarlet geometry of the table is offset deliciously by the acid green tabletop that climbs up the painting to become a wall. Encaustic is a great medium for this piece. The thick waxiness of the surface adds a dimensionality to the scene that makes the large blocks of color move with every brushstroke. I loved the combination of elements in this piece and long to see if this a direction that the artist is moving towards. The big interior scenes are very interesting, but there’s something extremely compelling about this bite-sized abstracted “portrait.”
Studio Window at Dusk. Oil and Acrylic on canvas. 18 x 18. 2023
These paintings are so interesting and self-revealing that I was a bit bewildered by the over-arching theme of “Chromotherapy” that the artist has laid atop her own work. As we enter the gallery, there are multi-colored plastic glasses that viewers are invited to don for the show. There is a zine that is a mock advertisement for the benefits of “Chromotherapy” and rainbow candles partially melted in brass candlesticks. These accoutrement feel self-consciousness and gimmicky. Treppendahl’s work doesn’t need this supporting cast. It is strong and beautiful and makes the gallery sing.
Moving Into Burgandy Street. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 72 x 80. 2023
CHROMOTHERAPHY- at Jack Hanley Gallery 177 Duane St. through Nov. 11.
About the Writer: Melissa Stern lives in NYC and The Hudson Valley. She studied Anthropology and Art History at Wesleyan Univ. Her mixed material sculpture and drawings are in a number of corporate and museum collections including The International Center For Collage, News Corp. Inc. JP Morgan Chase, The Arkansas Art Center, The Racine Art Museum, The Museum of Art and Design and The Wiseman Museum in Minneapolis. Her multi-media project The Talking Cure has been touring the United States since 2012, showing at The Akron Museum of Art, Redux Contemporary Art Center (Charleston), The Weisman Museum, Real Art Ways (Hartford) and The Kranzberg Art Center (St. Louis), and at The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton.MA. She has written about art and culture for The New York Press and CityArts for eight years and is a contributing writer to Hyperallergic and artcritical. Melissa has joined Art Spiel as co-editor and contributing write