Monday, June 21, 2021

Alex Hey, Comeback Painter

A half-century, Alex Hay’s huge paint-and-canvas continued to tribute and amaze objects commonly found in stationery shops. His 1965 painting “Legal Pad” retains its title, the pale yellow color of the paper and the light blue color of the delicate horizontal lines from edge to edge. It can be almost the real thing, except that, at about 8 feet tall, it is on the loom. Its combination of precise realism and mass encompasses the puzzle of Hay’s art: it is both commanding and modest, plush and slightly comical.

The “Legal Pad” in Peter Freeman Inc.’s “Alex Hay: Past Work and Cats, 1963-2020” is one of 40 paintings and drawings, including a greatly enhanced version of the mailing label, with a cargo tag hanging from its length. . Twine torn from some twine-shaped brown paper bags and a stenographer’s pad. This is the first survey of Hay’s six-decade career and another museum-quality show in a season full of them, even with the gallery scene in recovery mode.

Quaker’s simplicity and understanding of Hay’s work sets it apart, which is appropriate for an artist who has always been somewhat different. Born and educated in Florida, he moved to New York in 1959 and spent a little more than a decade in the art world. He found his vision, performing with artists and dancers who gathered around the Judson Church – most notably Robert Roschenberg, Steve Paxton and Deborah Hay, then his wife – and often had three solo shows at Present Cornbelly Gallery.

But in the early 1970s, Hay left New York. He eventually settled in Bisbee, Ariz., Buying an old hotel with painter Peter Young, another New York art-world dropout. He renewed his share and has lived and worked there since then, without a solo show for three decades.

Hay began a return to the art world visibility in 2002 with an exhibition of his works from the 1960s, assembled independently by Peter Freeman as an artist, and subsequently featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial I went. There Hay showed two new paintings, depicting large-scale scraps of raw or painted wood, which he had saved from his Bisbee renovation, thinking that they might prove useful. These works perfectly illustrate Hay’s insistence that his art originates from unusually mundane types of circumstances. The most recent paintings on the show are abstracts of wavy patterns based on close-ups of their cats, Bella, Marigold, Lily, and Tito’s fur.

Haye’s works of the ’80s are emblematic of the fact-oriented art movements of the decade: pop art, minimalist art, photo realism and conceptualism, without neatly plugging into any of them. For one thing, his work is almost entirely handmade, perhaps not surprising to an artist who specializes in carpentry and plumbing. This is part of its mystery. It is also intimately associated with creative problem-solving – primarily, how to assure small things through a meticulous process of magnification that has ritualistic, even devotional aspects.

Haye’s items are on the verge of anonymity, but his technique, which usually includes spray lacquer and stencils, is so careful that his works acquire their own kind of individuality. They often also gently embellish issues and methods of abstract painting. Since their subjects are initially flat, the early pieces easily achieve the goal of flatness that made the painting of the 60s so moving. His legal pad painting. Reveals parallel lines and stripes of Agnes martin And Frank Stella. “Label” (1966) has cut corners that qualify it as a one-size painting. And the classic red perimeter of the work recalls the frontier areas of Ralph Humphrey’s minimalist paintings and Joe Bare, Cheer only.

In fits and starts, Freeman’s show traces Hay’s project from the relatively representational and recognizable paintings of the 1960s, with relatively abstract paintings he created in our current century, sometimes silly drawings and Along with study that allows you to see their process.

One of the most beautiful and mysterious examples of the early years here is the “Cash Register Slip” of 1966. It shows a printed receipt dated February 23, 1966 for purchases in the amount of $ 5.05, at about 20 times its normal size. From Behlen & Bro. Inc., once art supply store in Greenwich Village. The ephemerality of this bit of detritus – cheap paper, tattered top and bottom, and especially the crisp font and faint, speckled printing – is memorable. And the labor-intensiveness of the painting is reflected in a shockingly small study for it: a collage-drawing consisting of an original receipt and some slightly larger test presentations dotted with a swarm of smaller numbers that detail every detail of the receipt. Measures within 50th of an inch. .

If “Cash Register Slip” breaks its subject to a grainy level, the latter does something similar from 2005 with the task of painting a work called “Old Green ’05”. From a distance it looks like a monochrome painting. Step a little closer and its surface reveals three or four tons of green, along with suggestions of dings, cracks, and drips that have been achieved over the years. Each minute shift in tone is another stencil.

The wonder-filled show often poses a question “How did this thing happen?” Answers can vary widely. It is hard to believe that the enlarged brown paper bag figurines since 1968 are not made from very large sheets of traditional brown kraft paper; In fact, they are made of paper that has been dyed brown. With this in mind, you may be inclined to see many delicate cracks in the yellow surface of “Sun Print” (1968), as a feat of the exquisite trompe l’oeil. In this case, Haye silk-screened a fugitive yellow ink on a large sheet of paper and left it outside. The rest of the work was done by the weather.

Alex Hay: Past Work and Cats, 1963–2020

Peter Freeman, Inc., 180 Grand Street, Manhattan, (212) 4-5156, at until June 11.

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