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Flowering: Inside/Outside

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Key takeaways

1. A group show of five diverse contemporary artists all incorporate floral elements, forging a candid bouquet of distinct aesthetic styles and points-of-views

2. Featuring Kathleen Craig, Xico Greenwald, Aubrey Levinthal, Gail Spaien, and Anna Valdez

The unparalleled Baroque master, Caravaggio, reportedly asserted that painting flowers well is as difficult as painting human figures. Flowering: Inside/Outside, the summer group exhibition at Nancy Margolis Gallery, brings together five diverse artists whose paintings incorporate floral elements, in some cases as a main focus, in others as a decorative component. These five artists’ representations of flowers—within interiors, seen through windows, or outside in nature—create a veritable bouquet of distinct aesthetic styles and points-of-view. The show will be on view June 13th through July 26th, 2019, with an opening reception at Nancy Margolis Gallery on Thursday, June 13th, from 6pm until 8pm.

Kathleen Craig, central Virginia, captures the essence of her subjects through abbreviated forms and broad patches of color. Influenced by Giorgio Morandi and Nicolas de Staël, Craig’s abstracted still lifes recall the straightforwardness of mid-century compositions. Goldfinches (2017), a picnic scene, portrays an assemblage of flowers represented by overlapping, hollow circles. Lyrical and stylized, their shapes mirror five slices of lemon atop a nearby geometric blanket.

Inspired by the everyday objects that surround him, New York-based artist Xico Greenwald paints deliberately arranged still lifes in his studio. The largest paintings in the exhibition, Greenwald’s formal approach highlights the uncomplicated beauty of the commonplace and nods to 17th-century Spanish compositions of fruit and florals. Basket with Flowers (2018-19) shows a bushel of blue flowers, a china bowl, and a silver spoon. Through his careful rendering of quotidian items, Greenwald emphasizes the richness of the familiar.

For years flowers have been a recurring theme in the paintings of Philadelphia artist Aubrey Levinthal. Whether in-bloom or bent at the stem, her portraits of flowers symbolically reflect the emotion of each painting. Levinthal also excels at abstracting botanical forms to create opulent patterns that offset her otherwise representational paintings. In Comforter with Flowers (2017), a sleeping couple is buried beneath a blanket that fills most of the panel. Large pink and black flowers dance across the fabric, adding boldness to a tender and intimate moment.

Maine artist Gail Spaien’s quiet portraits of interior spaces recall simultaneously 16th-and 17th-century Dutch floral painting and American folk art. Pattern, texture, and precision prevail in her meticulous and idealized impressions of nature and home. In Renegade Mirage #4 (2019), two types of flowers are shown unfolding from vases on a table. Arabesques and floral details are finely painted onto the surfaces of a teacup, a small pot, and a pitcher. Beyond the table through the window, thin, linear marks suggest a winter tree.

A native Californian, Anna Valdez chooses hot, saturated colors to depict domestic items from her environment, always with an emphasis on botanicals. Overflowing potted plants, stacks of artist monographs, conch shells, patterned rugs, animal bones, and decorated textiles are among the personal belongings she records. Valdez’s compositions appear photographic, each one resembling a snapshot. Never stilted, always inviting and fresh, her autobiographical paintings offer a portal into her world.