Though many of the 14 oil-on-linen paintings (all 2008 or ’09) in “Where There’s Water,” Anne Neely’s third solo exhibition at Lohin Geduld, pay homage to the lakes, tidal inlets and aquifers surrounding her Maine studio, their real subject is paint and the improvisational gusto of its handling. Neely reveals a visceral connection to her subject matter by way of a process that echoes nature’s dynamism, a discourse not dissimilar to that of her contemporary, Joan Snyder. In works ranging from 14 inches to 7 feet across, heavy gestural brushstrokes along with sweeps and scratches of the palette knife activate underlying layers of washes, drips and pours.
The blue-gray sea covering three quarters of Where There’s Water (56 by 72 inches) at first appears stagnant, crowded with a Morse code of small patches and rectangles that stretch and narrow as they recede toward the horizon. Though they suggest abandoned buoys or half-sunken barges, any illusion of stillness dissipates when the painting is viewed at close range. Each rectangular bar is a miniature abstract painting effervescing with bursts of color reminiscent of the circles and lozenges that add up to a Chuck Close portrait.
By contrast, Special Delivery (24 by 32 inches), divided roughly into three bands of color, reads loud and lively rather than quiet or still. In the top third, a pink and yellow sky hangs over a bustling city skyline and harbor. Interspersed within a murky green sea in the midsection are brick-shaped rectangles in fiery reds set off by cerulean ones incised with pictogramlike scrawls. The bottom band evokes low tide, with alluvial golden ochers streaked through with grays. Throughout this foreground area, yellow and pink circles glow like SOS signals, hinting that Neely’s pictures are not just about gaily flowing waters—here and elsewhere there’s a subliminal, foreboding message of environmental trouble.