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Mary Weatherford: Neon Paintings

Dec 18, 2020-May 2, 2021

Mary Weatherford uses abstract gestures to depict concrete places. Each nonrepresentational mark alludes to daily life, experience, and surroundings, invoking a hidden narrative or underlying subject matter. Since the 1980s, Los Angeles–based painter Mary Weatherford’s canvases have incorporated a wide variety of subject matter and technique, from repeated concentric circles to screen printing and collage with natural materials. In each series, the artist challenges the discourse of and around the aesthetics of abstract painting. The exhibition Neon Paintings examines pivotal pieces from the last decade, with a particular focus on her neon paintings.

Weatherford is a sharp observer of her surroundings, depicting a duality between natural landscapes like mountains and sea, and more urban, architectural environments. For many years, Weatherford often returned to the same sea cave on the central coast of California, painting the site at different times of the day. In another series, she painted a cloud in relation to a mountain or a wall in relation to the moon. The artist began to incorporate neon tubing in 2012 after driving around the California city of Bakersfield, where she was struck by the neon signage—both illuminated and burnt out—on bars, shops, and old factories. Weatherford’s neons arc over translucent veils of color, illuminating her canvases even as they act as their own expressive marks. The neon’s dangling cords likewise create intentional lines across her paintings.

The artist has noted that her work could be interpreted as self-portraiture—memories of weather, sound, and light. In Chinatown (2012), she paints the Manhattan neighborhood lit up late in the night. The particularly chaotic work Blue Cut Fire, painted in 2017, references the inferno that ravaged California’s San Gabriel Mountains the summer prior. In other pieces like the Tempest (2015), Weatherford composes the commotion of a storm on the sea. These otherworldly scenes are rooted in personal associations, where Weatherford calls us into the places she sees and knows.

AAM exhibitions are made possible by the Marx Exhibition Fund. General exhibition support is provided by the Toby Devan Lewis Visiting Artist Fund. Further support is provided by the AAM National Council. Additional support for Mary Weatherford’s exhibition is provided by Gagosian and David Kordansky Gallery.