Anke Weyer's Touch of the Street at Harper's Books
Anke Weyer’s work might be described as pastiche, but only in the best possible way. Using a palette of brightly hued oils and acrylics, she scrawls, drips, stains, daubs, and strokes the paint into complex compositions of lines and forms on canvas with high and low references.
At Harper’s Books in East Hampton, her paintings are joined by a series of tempera on newsprint, mostly supermarket circulars, letting the colorful images of produce and packaging contribute to the structure of the work.
German-born and Brooklyn-based, Ms. Weyer can be seen to have been influenced by both domestic and German Abstract Expressionism, called Tachisme there. But they are fully synthesized so that no one artist from those movements seems to dominate her consciousness.
She had a residency at the Elaine de Kooning house this summer. A romantic might want to imagine that some of the paintings, all executed this year, were done there, taking in the aura of the community, the light, the history of it all. But this is a style and approach to art making that she adopted well before she saw the vaunted East End light.
Plus, there is something else going on here, acid colors and improvised marks familiar from graffiti and street art. As with most contemporary painters, she is not locked into any one dogma, so she shifts easily from figurative to completely nonobjective painting.
In the upstairs gallery of Harper’s, the usually packed walls are empty save for “Myellow,” a 7-by-5-foot canvas. The almost church-like singular placement gives it a solemnity and power that might otherwise be diluted if shared. The title appears to refer to the two yellow cloud-like masses that dominate the canvas, orbs that gather and radiate energy the way stars might form in a universal void. Day and night sky blues, mossy greens, a mustardy mix, and a few strokes of salmon in graffiti-like marks add to the color scheme.
There’s so much going on here that it looks like a painting that ate another painting. You can smile at its joyfulness and still ponder its layered depths.
The paintings on the main floor also command a lot of white space, giving the eyes some moments of rest. “Bottle” breaks with the norm by presenting a more figurative approach in oil — it’s almost cartoonish, but still sketchy and painterly in its layered lines and strategic blobs of red. It’s a case of “one of these things is not like the other,” but it alerts the viewer that something more is at play here than the abstract works first suggest.
While the orbs in “Myellow” hint at cloud-like forms, in “Top Love” the word “love,” also in yellow, is actually apparent at top, just as Ms. Weyer directs you. It’s apparent in the L at left and then in a yellow heart shape standing in for the O. The V begins to be obscured by paint, and any sign of the E is gone, except for a smear of yellow with brown, green, and white at right. The eyes begin to ask, “Could that be a Y-O-U below?” But by then it feels like that is merely extrapolating, even though the hints are there.
The very large “Shrunk” channels Ray Parker over Willem de Kooning, and then “Toujours le Soleil” feels completely from the artist herself. The pox-like bubbles on a bilious green wash with a big splash of Pepto-Bismol pink feel visceral and queasy, only slightly mitigated by the intense Ty-D-Bol blue that dominates the right side of the canvas.
The newsprint circulars, which she overlays with tempera, are studies in odd juxtapositions of color. Sometimes complementary, as when the blues match the grapes next to them in “Untitled (Blue),” the paints can also form their own composition completely unrelated to the merchandise, such as the Easter egg lavenders, pinks, and greens in “Untitled (Purple)” that demonstrate plainly how little pastel is used in American packaging.
These works borrow from the 1940s and 1950s starving artist school of using cheap or recycled materials to feed the creative drive on an extreme budget. But recast in modern four-color printing, they have a more Pop-y feeling, uniting once diametrically opposed approaches to art making, as Ms. Weyer appears to do in much of her work.
The show will remain on view through Wednesday.