Annabel Livermore & Mary McCleary
December 8-January 12, 2019
Opening reception Saturday, December 8
Kirk Hopper Fine Art is excited to announce an upcoming exhibition for artists Annabel Livermore and Mary McCleary in cooperation with Moody Gallery, Houston. Reckoning, curated by Susie Kalil, brings together two fiercely independent artists who live and work in isolation outside the art mainstream. Both produce layered, ambiguous narratives that address the core issues of our time. Raw, tactile, eviscerating and more relevant than ever, Livermore's luminous, visionary paintings and McCleary's illusionistic mixed media collages both skewer and reimagine the "hot zone" topics of the real world: power, greed, religion, an unforgiving economic order.
We are living in times of huge existential crisis, in which our country has become increasingly tribal with divisions at the intersection of faith and politics. A "reckoning" is not only timely but urgent: It is the moment of trutha time when one is called into account for actions to fulfill one's promises, or the avenging of past mistakes and misdeeds; a time of bearing witness; an appraisal or judgment; a time in the future when forced to deal with unpleasant situations otherwise avoided. Both artists construct compelling realms, rich with primal associations.
In a way true visionaries do, Livermore has managed to get outside herself, beyond herself, and insinuate a poetic understanding of the plight of souls. Her fervor is jarring in its passion to celebrate the spirit with an almost mystical conviction. In October 22, 2010, the night 13 young innocent people were gunned down in their host's home while celebrating a birthday party, an immense creature straddles the mountains of Juarez, Mexico. It is an image of emotional disorder, a field of glowing, explosive color, spoiled and invaded. In Fatima, the transitory, otherworldly light seemingly transfigures the commonplace but also the very act of arrogating to oneself the powers of divinity. Here, Livermore quietly reaffirms the occult power of painting with great sweeps of color, punctuated with dabs, flecks and staccato strokes. Her paintings are about dreams, moments, perceptions, sudden insights. Livermore's sense of time is as fast as a running river of events where everything seems to touch and blend. Livermore lets us see invisible things, invents cosmologies, explores consciousness and endeavors to make the injustices, as well as the mysteries, of the world palpable.
Who are we? Where are we going? We hunger for genuine narratives that connect us to symbol and ritual, coming to terms with our place in the world, if only to find our way forth. Both artists explore the extremes of spiritual and social upheaval, as well as the very essence of storytelling and the role it plays in our lives.
McCleary's lushly sensuous, intensive collages combine painterly craftsmanship and bold iconography. Her subject matter is taken from religion, science, history and literaturethe sources of big themes. The narratives are off-kilter, slightly out of balance. At their core are issues of paradoxdeception, illusion, blindnessbut also elements of faith, the suggestion of hope as guiding forces. Her epic works are about our longings, our fallen state, about beautiful things leaving this world, never to return. The subjects McCleary uses are friends, colleagues and family members; the materials she chooses to cover the surfaces are common and extraordinary, handmade and manmadeglass, sticks, lint, mirrors, string, small plastic toyschosen for texture and color, but also for their allegorical potential. McCleary attaches them on heavy paper, much in the way a painter builds layer upon layer of pigment on canvas.
In Holy Mysteries (2010), a wondrous snowscape reveals itself to be a catastrophic plane crash. In Colorblind (2018), a hunter with rifle trained on his prey serves as metaphor for our anxious times of information overload. How do we determine what is true or false? For the unseen deer, such a reckoning is a matter of life and death. In Time is Combustible, Memories Smoke (2018), a young man looks back at an encroaching fire, even as he attempts to outrun time itself.
Throughout Reckoning, Livermore and McCleary set up metaphorical relationships among and between images and words, weaving mythic tales out of ordinary experience. Moving seamlessly between the gritty realm of the real and the more primary-colored world of the fable, the artists explore the ways superstitions, cultural beliefs, or supernatural legends revealand reflect backour identities and communities: our fears, hatreds, sympathies and dreams.
Born in Houston, Texas in 1951, Mary Fielding McCleary received her BFA, cum laude in printmaking/drawing at Texas Christian University and her MFA in graphics from the University of Oklahoma. In 2011, she was named Texas Artist of the Year. She is Regent's Professor of Art Emeritus at Stephen F. Austin State University, in Nacogdoches, Texas, where she taught from 1975 to 2005. Since 1970, McCleary has participated in over 350 one-person and group exhibits in museums and galleries in 29 states, Mexico, Canada, and Russia. These venues include the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., MOBIA in New York City, the Grey Gallery at NYU, the Boston Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. She is also a recipient of a Mid-America Arts Alliance/National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship. Her work has been regularly reviewed or featured in the Houston Post, Houston Chronicle, Austin American Statesman, Dallas Morning News, and other Texas newspapers, as well as in national publications: Art in America, Art News, Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion, Art Papers, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Art Week, Artspace, Texas Homes, New American Paintings, and Contemporanea International Arts Magazine. McCleary's work is in many public collections including those of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, the El Paso Museum of Art, the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi, and the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont. She serves on the board of the Trinity Institute in Tehuacana, Texas and the Editorial Board of Image Journal. Mary McCleary is represented by Moody Gallery in Houston, Texas and Flatbed Press in Austin, Texas.
Annabel Livermore lives and works in El Paso, Texas. Praised by the New York Times as "fresh," "a tough act to follow," and the "ultimate in transgression," Livermore is widely recognized in her home state of Texas as a unique presence and highly original artist. She has been characterized by Karen Moss, former curator at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, as "an anachronism who earnestly pursues a long-held tradition of landscape and genre painting . . . inspired by her Southwestern environment and vivid imagination." Art historian John T. Spike, director of the Florence Biennali, has observed that "Livermore embodies the whole spectrum of American symbolist painting," while noted British art critic Edward Lucie-Smith has written that her "vigorous, quasi-abstract work evokes feelings about the wonder of nature." Rendered with thick applications of radiant colors, Livermore's paintings are intensely personal, dream-like explorations of the natural world. Over the past 25 years her subjects have ranged from the ordinary to the sublime, including luminous floral arrangements, the hustler bars and frenetic streets of Juarez and, mostly recently, the storied Jornada del Muerto Valley in New Mexico. Livermore spends months and sometimes years working on individual paintings and often composes free-verse poems to accompany them. She favors displaying her finished works behind glass in lavish, handcrafted frames. Her paintings have been exhibited and collected throughout the United States.