“Have you reckoned a thousand acres much?” — Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Everybody knows there are only two types of people in the world. Or so the old saying would have us believe, except that there are many modifiers that follow the familiar line. So where does that leave us? There are as many types of people in the world as there are people in the world and the point is mute. Except when it comes to landscape painters.
There are two types of landscape painters in the world – and here comes the modifier – those concerned with the existential analytics of the sublime and those who engage with landscape through the lens of irony and genre. Or for the layperson – those concerned with the phenomenological experience and those concerned with a distanced analysis and cultural dialogue. You see what I’m doing here, right? There are as many landscape painters as there are landscape painters.
WHO: Eric Aho
WHERE: DC Moore Gallery
WHEN: October 11 (Extended until November 24, 2018)
Currently on show at DC Moore Gallery in Chelsea are the large-scale oil paintings by Vermont artist Eric Aho. As with all paintings, in order for one to ‘read’ them they must be seen in person. One must stand in front of the artwork and invade its personal space in order to fully apprehend it. In the case of Aho’s paintings it is because the camera is unlikely to capture the crucial difference in viscosity and transparency of the paint – juxtapositions of little patches of shiny paint and swaths of matte. Most of Aho’s paintings are human scale – rather than reducing the landscape they function almost as its one-to-one ratio slice. Also on view are some small-scale paintings. I’ve always thought that small landscape paintings function like postcards or tiny pictures in a locket – a way to compress something large or monumental into a tiny space and to make portable what is immobile or located ‘out there’ in the world. We can capture and compress the experience so we may live with the object of representation attached to our walls.
In a case of Aho’s abstract landscape painting, we are given a potentially portable slice of the artist’s subjective experience. His painterly choice is to blur specific details allows generalization of a natural space. And because of this, his icy landscape can become yours. Viewing Aho’s work transported me from the universality of the genre to my own involvement with a wintery pond reminiscent of a poem. As I stepped closer to examine the paint, the landscape dissolved and I was standing in front of a wall of oil and pigment. I could smell the artist’s studio as well as conjured wintery landscape – a visceral experience.
The question remains, which type of landscape painter is Eric Aho? His work conjures the embodied experience – it is not sufficient to view it as a photo reproduction, zooming in with your finger. One must stand in front of the painting and zoom in with one’s whole body – lean in to see the way the dry brush is dragged across the slightly still wet, but slick surface of the cinnabar greens, pastel blue, and titanium white. Look closely and see the way the artist’s fingerprint has left the same kinds of drag-through in the paint as a brush would, but on a micro scale, and note the way the he used his finger to add a small highlight. These details matter to the work – they are intrinsic part of knowing it.