‘Blue River’ is the largest single painting on canvas the artist has ever created, it is comprised of an enormous and seemingly boundless veil of blue bordered by sheets of oscillating red and silver. This work evokes not only the fluidity of water and paint, but also the vastness of the universe and its unfathomable power. An immense, durational work, ‘Blue River’ seems to point toward the river of time.
Oil on canvas
342.9 x 1129.7 x 6.4 cm / 135 x 444 3/4 x 2 1/2 in
Steir has said, ‘I paint water often, but don’t depict it; it is the paint itself that flows.’ This phenomenon is especially evident in Steir’s new series of ‘Rainbow Waterfalls,’ a radiantly colorful extension of the artist’s earlier black and white ‘Waterfall’ paintings. That acclaimed body of work was developed through the artist’s innovative technique of pouring, flinging and throwing paint onto canvas, embracing the inherent fluidity of the medium and utilizing gravity and chance to determine outcomes.
Rainbow Waterfall #1
9 x 7, F
9 x 7, D
Rainbow Waterfall #2
9 x 7, E
To create the ‘Rainbow Waterfalls,’ Steir first mapped out the compositions with chalk lines, establishing grids to guide where paint will land. While these faint white lines will blow away over time, some remain faintly visible in the final works––a remnant of one of the few elements of order Steir maintains over the works. Her canvases are primed in green, enabling the background to impart a distinct glow from behind. Afterward, Steir’s chosen pigments take the lead––cascading down the surface with the full story of their journey only revealed in the edges of the canvas. Patient observation rewards the viewer: the more time is spent looking at the paintings, the more dramatic their differences and details appear.
Rainbow Waterfall #5
9 x 7, C
Rainbow Waterfall #3
About the artist
Among the great innovators of contemporary painting, Pat Steir first came to prominence in the late 1970s and early 1980s for her iconographic canvases and immersive wall drawings. By the late 1980s, her inventive approach to painting—the rigorous pouring technique seen in her Waterfall works, in which she harnessed the forces of gravity and gesture to achieve works of astonishing lyricism—attracted substantial critical acclaim. Informed by a deep engagement with art history and Eastern philosophy, and a passion for artistic advocacy in the both the visual and literary realms, Steir’s storied five-decade career continues to reach new heights through an intrepid commitment to material exploration and experimentation.
On view in New York
‘Pat Steir. Blue River and Rainbow Waterfalls’ is on view now through 23 December 2022 at Hauser & Wirth New York, 22nd Street.
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