NEW YORK – An exhibition of Sylvia Plimack Mangold’s early paintings and drawings will be on view at Craig F. Starr Gallery from February 5 through March 26, 2016. Sylvia Plimack Mangold: Floors and Rulers, 1967-76 brings together over a dozen works from the artist, the Brooklyn Museum, The LeWitt Collection, and private collections.
The show focuses on Plimack Mangold’s meticulous renderings of floors, light, and space from the mid-1960s through mid-70s. These works are celebrated for combining feminist, minimalist, conceptual, and formal concerns within a realist vocabulary. Plimack Mangold has said her work is “not about fooling the eye, but about questioning the nature of painting and thereby the nature of levels of reality…. The only element which is true to itself is the paint when it is applied as a covering on a flat field.” Her works are studies of perception and illusion – each motif (floor, floor with mirror, floor with light, etc.) comes directly from the artist’s surroundings and serves to work out a problem or challenge that when solved inspires and leads onto the next.
Masking tape, graph paper, and rulers are at first employed as tools, however by the mid-1970s these instruments become part of the compositions. The exhibition presents a selection of Plimack Mangold’s early, important imagery; from parquet floors to a field of color framed by tromp l’oeil rulers and tape. Highlights include Untitled Hallway (1967-68, private collection) a section of floorboards painted on a canvas measuring 63 x 18 inches, which contributes to the illusion of a long, receding hallway, and Floor with Laundry No. 3 (1971, Brooklyn Museum) one of only four paintings Plimack Mangold made of this subject. Untitled (ruler) (1976), an acrylic on balsa wood, the 18 1/8 x 2 1/4 inch work and is a one-to-one scale painting of an Exact ruler. It brings to mind the work of Jasper Johns and his continual explorations of painting as an object or device. The ruler appears in a number of works on view including Four Coats, also from 1976, which is a painting of rulers, masking tape, and literally four coats of paint.
The show is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by independent curator and writer of contemporary art, Susan Harris. In her text she states the exhibition “brings together a select group of the artist’s iconic early paintings, offering a rare opportunity to revisit their achievements and to consider their role as a seminal part of a larger, cohesive oeuvre driven by Plimack Mangold’s continuing investigations into painting and process.”