Gestural Painting in Spotlight at Independent Art Fair

A painting of people in a room

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Matthias Franz (German, born 1984), infantile gestures, 2024, Oil on canvas, 170 x 160 cm. (66.9 x 63 in.) courtesy of GRIMM Gallery

From dark and moody to blithe and bright, gestural painting is having a resurgent moment at the Independent Art Fair this year. Representational, abstract, and everything in between, artists showcase a wide range of motions and gesticulations of the artists’ hand tell the stories.

The dark and ephemeral paintings by Matthias Franz presented by GRIMM offer a window into a more subdued, philosophical view of the world. Sinister figures and birds interact in an organized chaos of lines and shapes. The monochromatic palette only slightly deviates into raw umber, burnt sienna, and shades of gray, which add to the heavy melancholic mood. The compositions are thinly painted and not overstated, tittering on the edge of abstraction.

A painting on a wall

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Installation view, Independent Art Fair: Jane Swavely and Alan Uglow, Magenta Plains, New York, NY, 2024

Magenta Plains presents Jane Swavely’s monumental abstract works. The showstopper is a large diptych almost entirely made of silver oil paint strokes parted by a central bright cadmium orange vertical. The piece shimmers and changes with the viewer’s perspective as one moves about, ever so slightly reflecting the objects in front of it. It’s effortlessly interactive and goes a little beyond a typical painting. Swavely’s sense of movement and human presence within her application of paint is beyond evident, creating a silent dialogue with the artist.

A painting of a person in a red field

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Caroline Absher, Red Sky, 2024, Oil on canvas, 80 x 60 inches, image courtesy of Fredericks & Freiser

Fredericks & Freiser showcases Caroline Absher’s large semi abstract figurative works in which most of the painting surface is dedicated to loose broad brightly colored gestures. Her figures immerse viewers in pools of color, seemingly beaming. A head-turning piece titled Red Sky (2024) immerses the viewer into a vortex of red and violet marks. The surface nearly glows as a figure emerges in the center-right, lost in its own dream with closed eyes and a mouth slightly ajar. Tiny nude figures in the bottom-right corner allude to Absher’s earlier fantastical work.

A painting on a wall

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Maia Cruz Palileo, After Wandering For Much Time, 2023, flashe and oil on canvas, 84 x 96 in, 213.4 x 243.8 cm, image Courtesy of the Artist and Monique Meloche Gallery

Seemingly joyful, bright large paintings by Brooklyn-based Maia Cruz Palleo, presented by Monique Meloche, reflect on their Philippine roots and gesturally deconstruct abstractions of memories and imagery from family photographs. The bright, impressionist brushstrokes invite the viewer into the jungle, quite literally, to discover figurative forms emerging from the chaos.

A painting of a person and a dog

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Asami SHOJI, 2024, Oil on canvas, 103 × 72.8 cm (40.5 × 28.5 in), courtesy of LINSEED Projects

Whimsical pieces by Asami Shoji at Linseed’s booth evoke a sense of wonder. These nightmares or daydreams – composed of a series of brisk strokes, smudges, and thinly applied paint – appear quite refreshing next to more labored work at the fair. This year’s Independent Art Fair showcases a diverse array of work and artists but is particularly defined by its abundant selection of gestural paintings transecting realism and abstraction.

Featured galleries: Magenta Plains, Fredericks & Freiser, LINSEED Projects, Monique Meloche Gallery, GRIMM Gallery at the Independent Art Fair at Spring Studios, May 9–12, 2024.

About the writer: Anna Shukeylo is an artist, writer, educator, and curator working and living in the New York Metropolitan area. She has written for Artcritical, Painters on Painting, and ArtSpiel. Her paintings have been exhibited in solo exhibitions at Kean University, NJ, Manchester University, IN, and in group shows at Auxier/Kline, Equity Gallery, Stay Home Gallery, among others.