Home Art Judy Ledgerwood’s Playfully Subversive Patterns

Judy Ledgerwood’s Playfully Subversive Patterns


Lots of writers, myself included, have linked Judy Ledgerwood’s exuberant abstractions to the Sample and Ornament artwork motion. Traditionally talking, Sample and Ornament (1972–1985) challenged the canon-making orthodoxies and conventions that dominated a lot artwork within the Sixties and ’70s, and that proceed to forged their shadow. This problem to the canon, which manifests itself as celebrations of the feminine physique and sexuality in Ledgerwood’s work, is inseparable from her vocabulary of hand-painted quatrefoils, interlocking triangles, and thickly painted labial shapes. What distinguishes Ledgerwood’s work from the sooner era of ladies artists working within the area of Sample and Ornament is its bluntness and humor. 

Like Mary Heilmann, whose shiny geometric abstractions loosened the rigidity and joylessness of Minimalism, Ledgerwood has a present of impropriety, painterliness, waywardness, and humor in her work, upending the symmetry and repetition which can be frequent to ornamental and decorative arts. Ledgerwood’s ribald interruptions and optical shifts are a part of what holds the viewer’s consideration. 

“Jaywalking” (2022), the biggest portray in her debut exhibition, Judy Ledgerwood: Sunny, at  Denny Gallery (January 7–February 11, 2023), exemplifies how far the artist will go to undo P&D’s conventions of construction and repetition with out abandoning them altogether. Beginning on the left aspect of the sagging prime edge, Ledgerwood has painted irregular yellow, turquoise, blue, and black triangles in various sizes, together with a number of rectangles that match collectively. The monochromatic triangles, which comprise incomplete and full quatrefoils, descend down the floor, with a number of drips of shade right here and there.

The exception is a big, oddly formed white space descending from a part of the highest edge. On this space, Ledgerwood has outlined incomplete black quatrefoils with a pink dot within the middle. This incomplete quatrefoil is echoed by the flat ones painted inside the triangles. Aside from using the identical vocabulary all through, there is no such thing as a underlying sample or order to the association of the triangles. 

Judy Ledgerwood, “Jaywalking” (2022), oil on canvas, 84 inches x 96 inches

The cropped, cartoonish quatrefoil shapes of “Jaywalking” evoke female and male genitalia; the repetition of an irregular pink orb works each formally and evocatively. Working with a restricted vocabulary, Ledgerwood’s improvisational method is anarchic, playful, matter-of-fact, and direct. She doesn’t appear to return over the portray or really feel the necessity to revise and fuss. It’s as if Henri Matisse’s cut-outs have been romanced by anthropomorphic cartoon mice. That humor — which is never seen in artwork related to the P&D motion — is simply one of many many elements contributing to the artist’s singularity.

In “Footsteps” (2022), Ledgerwood divides the portray into three vertical bands, in yellow, pink, and turquoise. Within the yellow space is a staggered association of white quatrefoils, whereas within the pink band are quatrefoils inside turquoise diamonds. And within the turquoise band are black quatrefoils inside black diamonds. The suggestive metallic define of a thick vertical almond is added to the shapes on this band. The stability between symmetry and repetition is all the time off-kilter and tweaked, largely as a result of Ledgerwood paints instantly onto the canvas with out going again into the work. 

Utilizing a easy, open vocabulary along side a palette of shiny yellows, deep blues, reds, black, and turquoise, Ledgerwood retains discovering methods to be improvisational inside the area of Sample and Ornament. Interruptions and shifts within the patterns elevate the work out of the soothing predictability of repetition. Generally her quatrefoil drawings are positively goofy, underscoring the elasticity of the form. Given her commemoration of feminine sexuality, how may we learn these materials indicators of change and adaptableness? Paint is all the time each kind and image in these works, which considerably distinguishes her work from these of her predecessors. 

The deeper pressure working via Ledgerwood’s work is between construction and improvisation, order and play. By all the time conserving each in shut proximity, she has discovered a option to be painterly and direct — one thing related to Summary Expressionism greater than Sample and Ornament. Extra importantly, she has expanded on one thing that was central to Summary Expressionism, which subsequent generations have suppressed or ignored: its vulgarity, as present in Willem de Kooning’s “Ladies” work. Nevertheless, the vulgarity in Ledgerwood’s work is explicitly feminine — preposterous and candid. Indecency and decorum are by no means utterly cleaved from one another in her artwork, and that mixture presents quite a bit to ponder. 

Judy Ledgerwood, “Footsteps” (2022), oil on canvas, 72 inches x 48 inches
Judy Ledgerwood, “Plato’s Primaries” (2022), oil on canvas, 44 inches x 38 inches

Judy Ledgerwood: Sunny continues at Denny Gallery (39 Lispenard Avenue, Tribeca, Manhattan) via February 11. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here