Nathan Ethier "Heavy Light"

29 May 2024 – 27 Jun 2024

Regular hours

11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00

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David Richard Gallery is pleased to debut new paintings by Nathan Ethier in his second solo exhibition with the gallery, “Heavy Light”.


David Richard Gallery is pleased to debut new paintings by Nathan Ethier in his second solo exhibition with the gallery, “Heavy Light”. The eighteen new paintings created from 2022 to 2024 range in size from 63 x 60, to 51.5 x 48, 42 x 40, 34.5 x 32.5 to and 16.5 x 15.75. This presentation will showcase twelve of the new works.
Layering of saturated and desaturated colors using meticulously applied translucent glazes with overlapping and opposing horizontal and vertical brush strokes that emulate the warp and weft of woven textiles in an overall canvas-filling pattern has been a mainstay of Ethier’s studio practice for years. While the process and use of all over patterns remains constant, the key feature in this newest body of work is the presence of a centrally located focal point comprised of bright and vividly colored rectilinear and curvilinear shapes against a background of all over geometric forms and patterns in desaturated hues of complimentary and tonal values.
Ethier achieves compositional harmonies through his all-over patterned grounds that persist in form, thus anchoring the composition, while varying in the upper most hues that the viewer sees through the building of successive layers of translucent color applied selectively in newly applied shapes over the surface of the canvas as noted above. The new brighter and vividly colored focal point, the “figure” in the parlance of “figure-ground” relationships, emerges from the ground through this sequential process of adding additional patterns of new curved and geometric shapes and leveraging color theory to achieve harmonic palettes. Sometimes the shapes of the ground remain as grids of squares or rotated to create diamond shapes and grided patterns.
     According to Ethier in a recent written statement: “The
     compositions of these pictures are simultaneously ‘all
     over’, and not. The collections of illuminated shapes
     seem to disrupt the underlying grid; however, they
     depend on its very structure to exist as part of the image.
     These paintings are hard edge and soft edge, all at once.”

Reminiscent of Julian Stanczak, the important color abstract painter famous for his optical and illusory compositions in the 1960s and 70s, and his approach to sequentially layering colors on top of the patterned layer below using masking tape to successively reveal only the shapes to be painted with the new hue. The difference is Stanczak almost always used opaque colors to cover over selective portions of the grid of colors below. Ethier, however, uses translucent colors so that the color below becomes part of and transformed selectively into a different color specifically within the desired shape that, in his case, will become part of the emerging figure in the ultimate foreground. Another interesting comparison between the generationally diverse artists is the repetition of certain small motifs or structures of contrasting colors that are uniformly gridded or patterned across the canvas surface. Stanczak referred to these as “activation elements” because they excite the viewer’s eye, causing the brain to try and make sense of the frenetic marks which in turn makes the viewer more susceptible to the power of suggestion. In other words, the activation elements help challenge the viewer’s visual perception.  
The final additions in Ethier’s newest paintings are often large circular discs, ovals, squares, or teardrops in specific arrays and highly contrasting translucent hues of lavender, light grey, bright amber, or lighter values of colors within the composition to either elevate the centrally located figure by framing it or directionally drawing the viewer’s eye to it, or even veiling and slightly obfuscating the figure. In the painting, “Magical Thinking” the large discs on the upper-most layer of canvas gives the figure a slight anthropomorphic reference, it almost appears as the head and eyes of an owl.
The centrally located figures are interesting shapes in and of themselves, moving the compositions into an optical and illusory aesthetic and making the viewer ponder astral, mystical, or existential realms. The most dimensional of the structures is the bi-partite curvaceous structure resembling a spinning top or dumbbells, possibly even an electron map (for the chemists out there). The interior shapes and patterning utilize a curved dome-shaped form that reads as a sliver off the edge of a circle and provides powerful kinetic, whirling, and illusory imagery. Other structures of the figure range from spherical orbs that are floating freely or slightly resting upon the dumbbell structure noted above or just a portion of it such that there is a slight botanical nod to perhaps the pedicle of a flower or fruiting structures. Still, in others, the sphere morphs into an oval or elliptical shape. Again, the combination of the high contrast, high-key colors and curves of the interior shapes and patterns imbue the structures with pulsating and spinning kinetic movement.
     Ethier recently commented on his sources of
     inspiration, “Inspiration for the shapes and motifs
     at play in this work came from the dappling effect
     of sunlight through forest canopies, stained glass
     arrangements, mycology, sun angle charts, wind
     patterns, bird murmuration, the Moon, concert
     lighting, botanical order, loud music on a clear
     day, and surely many other subconscious interventions
The artist’s title for the exhibition, “Heavy Light”, is an interesting play on words. It could be that both “heavy” and “light’ pertain to weight, either as a physical mass or visual size of an artwork on a wall and within a space, meaning the painting’s pictorial impact. If “heavy” is an adjective modifying “light” then that could imply the paintings are very luminous, bright and radiant. Actually, both interpretations are true and apply to Ethier’s paintings. His command of color and intuition for juxtaposing hues to leverage interactions and optical effects creates the internal energy and sets the mood for each painting. To that end, Ethier recently wrote, “The illusion of projected light conveyed in my pictures gives each one of them a sense of life, action, and exuberant coexistence with the viewer.”
About Nathan Ethier:
Nate Ethier’s artworks have been exhibited at Auxier/Kline, NY; Danese/Corey, NY; LMAKgallery, NY; Minus Space, NY; Geoffery Young Gallery, MA; Nancy Margois Gallery, NY; The Boiler/Pierogi Gallery, NY; Morgan Lehman Gallery, NY; and at institutes such as the Susquehanna Art Museum, PA; Boston University, MA; Georgia Southern Univeristy, GA. He is a recipient of a Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program Award and was a nominee for the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant. His work has been reviewed in such publications as the Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, the Boston Globe, and the Providence Journal. Ethier is originally from Providence, Rhode Island, and currently lives and works in New York City and is represented by David Richard Gallery in New York City.

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David Eichholtz

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Nathan Ethier


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