Last spring Kayne Griffin Corcoran in Los Angeles announced they were adding New York City based artist Mary Obering to their gallery and their first exhibition with her would be in the fall of 2018. Now that time has come, and they are using their first collaboration with the artist to showcase some of her early works from the 1970s, which she made shortly after moving to New York City. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1937, Obering received her MFA from the University of Denver before heading east and making New York City her home. The show explores works from her early years living in Soho and her interest in using traditional methods and materials in a contemporary context.
In 1971, Obering moved to Soho when it was still a neighborhood filled with empty loft space and found a studio where she could work on large scale paintings. She joined fellow artists such as Donald Judd and Red Grooms who also were living in the area and would make the neighborhood a center for artistic output. In these early works there is the influence of artists such as Josef Albers and his exploration into shape and color. However, it was also a time in the history of art in New York City when traditional methods of painting were under siege, and the focus was leaning towards performance art. Rather than embrace the more popular methods, she doubled down on the traditional and began experimenting with tempera and gold on gessoed panel (she was inspired to be an artist by an early trip to Italy after all).
Mary Obering, Déjà Vu, 1975, acrylic on canvas, 84 x 72 inches, 213.4 x 182.9 cm
Mary Obering, Balcony, 1975, acrylic on canvas, 84 x 72 inches, 213.4 x 182.9 cm
And so Obering became known for exploring colors and space by creating a patchwork of monochromatic canvases composed into one. Her process begins by painting fields of color in acrylic paint on different canvases, she then cuts them into patches and composes and affixes them together to create the final result: three-dimensionality where there was once two-dimensionality.
The colors used in this exhibit echo that early trip to Tuscany with their rich jewel tones. Many of the works have the same shape yet with different color patterns. The artist’s hand is still visible in the brushstrokes. In Déjà Vu from 1975 we see an exploration of reds and pinks with layers of canvas in burgundy, gray, cream, red and pink. A nearly identical canvas of the same size and same year, Balcony, is rendered with deep tonality including blues, greens and tans. The effect is that we see the colors interacting with one another through their shapes.
This is Obering’s first exhibition with Kayne Griffin Corcoran, and it is on from September 8 – November 3. She continues to live in New York City, and her works have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Wadsworth Atheneum, among others.
– Sarah McMillian