Painting two nations divided by a river, borders, and politics
Courtesy of UB’s Anderson Gallery
After viewing Take Five at UB Anderson Gallery, make sure to check the second-floor exhibition of abstract paintings by Buffalo native Pam Glick, titled Dream House: Niagara–USA–Canada (showing through January 5, 2020). It might not always be evident, but expressionistic abstraction is rarely entirely improvised. Artists need a starting point, something to inspire and constrain their impulses.
Glick starts with a grid. As she builds up paint layers, the grid sometimes remains vaguely apparent, and other times it’s completely obscured. Her thematic subject is Niagara Falls. It might seem counterintuitive to force something as fluid as raging water onto a structured framework. To an extent, this is Glick reordering nature, but grids also define property, demarcate maps, speak of allotments. Glick thinks of the Falls as a geographic region, two nations divided by a river, borders, and politics.
Glick has been developing this theme for several years, and these are among her finest results. Glick paints with force and conviction, as if she’s channeling the power of the cataracts. In Dream House I, Niagara—USA—Canada, black linear strokes over a white foundation evoke ripples of pounding water, the roar of the falls, the roiling of the cataracts, and even rock strata. Along the base, a strip of blue suggests a river.
Dream House II, Niagara—USA—Canada is more chaotic, with an interconnecting network of thick blue lines obscuring dark foundation colors. Dream House IV, Niagara—USA—Canada, is a showstopper, with a translucent pastel glaze over saturated colors, boldly topped by white-on-black lined geometric shapes. Powerful.
These paintings also make a case for the traditional stretched rectangle format. The dynamic compositions need a clean, straight edge to serve as a counterpoint, a subtle declaration that the frenzied commotion within is deliberate and controlled.