Martha Diamond: Broad Strokes

July 22, 2017 - August 15, 2017
Saturday, July 22: 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Harper’s Books is pleased to announce Broad Strokes, an exhibition of work by New York-based painter Martha Diamond. Comprised of both historic and more recent paintings on linen, the exhibition will be on view from July 22nd through August 15th, 2017. Concurrently on the mezzanine, Harper’s Books will present an exhibition of new work by New York-based artist Daniel Heidkamp. Both artists will be in attendance for their openings.

On display on the first floor are two distinct bodies of work that Martha Diamond produced during the 1980s and the mid-2000s. In a series of large paintings on linen, Diamond loosely renders tall buildings and complex cityscapes. Her painterly vocabulary is assembled from saturated skeins of color, and thick, gestural brushwork that reveal the effect of light on the urban environment, including early morning fog, and the shadows of twilight. In her essay for Diamond's 1990 show at Robert Miller Gallery, the poet Eileen Myles noted that: "Martha Diamond seems to be painting 'the present,' whether it's big or little parts of buildings, specks of dust or paint strokes floating in a raspberry sky..."

Diamond relies as much on personal history as she does on direct observation to assemble her paintings, and her style is marked by the way in which she takes liberties with her subject matter. Façades and shadows function as generative material for Diamond’s expressionistic gestures, in a way that moves her paintings beyond more faithful forms of representation. Her pictures skirt the edge of legibility, and while certain works might telegraph the silhouette of a skyline, others dissemble into complex patterns of faceted planes.

In another series of vertically oriented canvases, Diamond abandons any pretense toward representation, and works instead within a rigorous syntax of horizontal bands in black and white. Her reduced palette and rhythmic fields of parallel bars trade in questions of surface and depth as they shuttle between flatness and deep space. Though radically different in their painterly strategies, both bodies of work exploit a particular brand of wet-on-wet painting, which has come to define Diamond’s mature style. Heavy impasto registered with wide brushes lends her work a chunky heft that compliments both her abstract and more representational compositions.

Diamond is a longtime veteran of the downtown New York art world, and she’s maintained a studio practice in the same Bowery loft since she took up residence in 1969. Her signature approach to representational painting was forged in a crucible of artists and poets who championed the centrality of personal experience in creative production, paying particular attention to the ways in which one’s perceptions of New York City could be translated into art. Alongside painters like Lois Dodd, Alex Katz, and Larry Rivers, as well as poets like Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, and Peter Schjeldahl, Diamond worked at the margins of the city at a time when light and space were in ample supply. In a manner that differentiates her from her counterparts, however, Diamond has continually chronicled the changing character of New York’s urban environment, recalling the city’s most celebrated documentarians, including photographers like Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, and Paul Strand. From her Bowery loft, Diamond makes images of the built environment that teeter on the verge of dissolution, in the foggy glow of an early morning sunrise, or the incandescent pattern thrown from the windows of a residential high rise.

Martha Diamond (b. 1944, New York, NY) lives and works in New York. She received a BA from Carleton College in Minnesota, and an MA from New York University. Her work has been the subject of numerous solo presentations in the United States, including exhibitions at Alexandre Gallery, New York; Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick; Brooke Alexander Gallery, New York; John Davis Gallery, Hudson; the New York Studio School, New York; the Portland Museum of Art, Portland; Robert Miller Gallery, New York; and Sue Scott Gallery, New York. Diamond’s work is frequently featured in major group exhibitions both stateside and abroad, including shows at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn; the Colby College museum of Art, Waterville; CUE Art Foundation, New York; the Dedalus Foundation, New York; the Nagoya Museum of Art, Nagoya; the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Chicago; Skarstedt Gallery, New York; Sidney Janis Gallery, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Her work is held in numerous public collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn; Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville; Fogg Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of the City of New York, New York; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; Staatliche Museum, Berlin; and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.