Selected by Simone DiLaura

LAURA NEWMAN, House of Sticks, 2019


Our featured artwork this week is a vibrant abstract painting by Brooklyn-based contemporary artist Laura Newman, House of Sticks. In this work, Newman draws upon the world around her, from memories and places or from imagination, using a remarkable range of mediums and techniques to describe the illusion of deep space colliding with flat areas of color, all held in place by a variety of linear marks and textural planes. 


The artist conjures varied moods in her works that lead us on non-verbal paths of visual exploration. One painting may suggest a night walk in a city under construction, and others may suggest dreamscapes of layered experience. And yet others still are closer to being pure abstraction. It is often the case in Newman’s work that color planes, marks and strokes perform double duty, typifying her disregard for the separation between abstraction and representation by weaving identifiable forms into an abstract image.


Over the course of her 25+ year artistic career, Newman’s work has gone through an organic transition: the structure presented in earlier works consists of hard-edged geometric forms, crisp lines, transparent planes and flattening of forms; while in more recent work, nameable things such as billboards, houses, doors, fields and other recognizable objects are identifiable. What now establishes guidelines for the viewer are colossal strokes, elongated collage-like shards of color and thin exploratory lines. The points of departure for her paintings are instances in her life. She draws upon the world around her, from memories and places or from speculative reality. Compositional ambiguity, a thickening of atmosphere and a sense of disruption add to an already robust list of qualities and information that establish spatial inversions, engendering a sense of negation and contradiction. 


In discussing her work, Newman explains: “A painting comes alive for me when I can feel the space in it. In my recent paintings, brushstrokes cohere into structures that serve as containers for space and fold together a range of approaches to form, among them hard-edged geometrical shapes, loose gestural dry brushed strokes of ink, and architectural references. Painting for me is about discovering an image. Through the process of working and reworking, layering and painting out, I attempt to locate a specific but unnameable place with its own rules of gravity and rhythm, that surprises me, but I recognize it.”


Laura Newman's work has been exhibited around the US and can be found in a number of public and private collections. She has received fellowships and awards from The American Academy in Rome, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Yaddo, The American Academy of Arts and Letters, The New York Foundation on the Arts, and Vassar College.  Born in Cleveland, Ohio, and educated at Cooper Union, the California Institute of the Arts, and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Newman is a full-time Professor in the Art Department at Vassar College, she lives and works ion Brooklyn, New York.


LAURA NEWMAN (American b. 1956)

House of Sticks, 2019

Oil and acrylic on canvas 

62 x 50 in 

March 1, 2021