Susan Sommer: Plein Air Abstraction

30 January - 31 October 2021

Susan Sommer has a distinct view of the rhythms of nature. Working in one of the more rustic areas of Upstate New York, she sees the changing seasons and accompanying movements of indigenous species as a constant reminder that nature is the ultimate bringer of stability and change. Instead of making accurate representations, Sommer sees these fascinating facilities as a jumping off point to dig deep into the shadows and light. Each and every part of our natural environment can be broken down into a symbiotic network of plants, animals and climate, but how does one express that with pure light and color. Sommer achieves this elusive outcome with cousin shapes, complementary hues and cohesive compositions that relay holistic harmony to its host of inhabitants.

- D. Dominick Lombardi

Painting en plein air is a long and storied tradition, but Susan
Sommer finds ways to build on the time-honored strategy rather than simply add to
it. Sommer began working out-of-doors in the Catskills in 2001, producing a series
of abstract canvases that combine vigorous brushwork with deep, sensuous color,
interlacing clustered strokes in such a way that recognizable imagery is obliterated
but atmosphere and association are retained and emphasized. They are
compositions that hint at profound emotion and vigorous life.
Susan Sommer is based in the Hudson Valley, New York City, Los Angeles, and the
West Indies. She graduated with a BFA from the Moore College of Art and Design,
Philadelphia, in 1968, and later studied the figure at the Art Students League, New
York, with Macabi Greenfield, Nathan Cabot Hale, and Rudolf Baranick. An
immersive focus on natural forms and forces runs throughout her oeuvre, and while
there is imagery in her paintings, it tends to be ambiguous. She alludes to the places
in which she lives and works—from the Caribbean islands to Manhattan—in a
subtler way than via simple depiction, shifting the rhythm of her application to
mirror the pace and mood of each locale. This alternation between town and
country also helps to distinguish her from that of influences such as Willem de
Kooning, Franz Kline, and Barnett Newman.
Sommer’s current paintings amalgamate human, plant, mineral, and animal worlds,
again without recourse to direct illustration. They evoke a range of moods and
milieus, seasons and weather conditions, often by combining subtle references to
more than one place or time. Through hard-won but fluid-looking paintwork and a
judicious use of color combination and tonal contrast, the artist achieves an
effortless-seeming harmony that gestures toward the natural sublime. As this
exhibition demonstrates so vividly, her work uses gesture to immerse us in the
traces of memory and the lingering aura of place.
Susan Sommer has exhibited at venues including the Silvermine Arts Center, New
Canaan, CT; Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; Housatnic Museum of Art,

Bridgeport, CT; Mark Gruber Gallery, New Paltz, NY; Riverside Arts Museum,
Riverside, CA; and Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, Woodstock, NY. Her
work is represented in the collections of the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History,
Albuquerque, NM, de Saisset Museum of the University of Santa Clara, California;
Government House, Saint Vincent; and Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. She
is the subject if three monographs published by Maiden Lane Publishing, and
appears in the Who’s Who of American Art.

Installation Views