Cary Gang’s Sumptuous Synthesis of Color and Gesture

Above all else, the New York painter Cary Gang is a colorist. Before she became a painter, she was a singer, and the sheer musicality of her work reminds one that the term “chromatic” refers to music scales as well as to the various qualities of color that have compelled the doubly gifted artist from early on.

“Colors held me, as if by the hands, pulling me along through childhood,” Gang has stated. “The sweeping blues and purples of Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty. Crayola crayons I could not help but nibble. The steel gray of the lake. The underbrush in the woods, yellow, beige. Roots like purple veins, tangled through. Trees. Leaves. Squirrels’ gray tails, fanned out by brushes. My Little Golden Books. Turquoise popsicles. Aluminum foil. A doll dress in a green so luminescent it seemed to stain my palms.”

The examples that she gives are telling; for her palette encompasses a broad spectrum, ranging from the soft, light-filled hues of nature to the more strident industrial colors of the consumer products that she names. Indeed, there is no discernible hierarchy to the sources of her chromatic enthrallment in the paintings by Cary Gang on view at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, from September 8 through 29. (Reception Thursday, September 10, from 6 to 8 PM.)

Indeed, what one sees in these vigorous large-scale abstractions in oil and Latex on canvas is an utterly democratic approach to each color as a discrete entity unto itself. The green of the grass and the yellow and beige of the underbrush merge harmoniously with Popsicle turquoise and Crayola pink. And even the addition of Latex house paints to Gang’s standard artist’s oil colors lends another element of tonal complexity to the mix: a muted milkiness, akin to the waxy surface of encaustic, like an optical trampoline for her more strident hues to bounce off of.

While color is clearly the main event in Gang’s paintings, it is by no means the whole show, since she combines it with a gestural vigor harking back to Abstract Expressionism. But as we all know, action was so paramount in their time that color took a back seat for the New York School, until Olitski and the other Color Field Painters came along. With the advantage of hindsight, Gang integrates color and action seamlessly in compositions comprised primarily of bold vertical strokes that weave disparate hues into new harmony in paintings with playful titles such as “Something Good Came of It,” “Nothing Could be Further from the Truth,” and “More than Zook.”

Although the bias of her rainbow strokes is vertical, horizontals also enter the composition on a more minor note, the phantom grid fleshing out in “Back to Deuce,” where the dominant reds and yellows and greens intersect like flashes of neon and headlights reflected in a Times Square rain puddle. And in another large painting called “The Other Way Around,” the perfect symmetry of the square canvas is echoed in a more roughly outlined light blue linear rectangle slashed down onto a vigorously worked pink and yellow field.

At once impetuous and controlled, the paintings of Cary Gang achieve a sumptuous synthesis of color and gesture, making clear that the spirit of the New York School is still alive and well.

–– Maurice Taplinger

Image Credits: Something Good Came of It, Oil & Latex on Canvas, 45" x 40"

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