Celia Gerard at Tayloe Piggott Gallery

Celia Gerard, The Diver (2012), mixed media on watercolor paper, 40″ x 60:; courtesy Tayloe Piggott Gallery

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The pleasure of Celia Gerard’s art, and its challenge, lies in the equilibrium achieved between improvisation and certitude, between a malleable process and imagery that is finite and clear.

With their clusters of diagrammatic geometry, grainy scrims of pigment and I-dare-you-to-follow-my-steps compositions, the images evolve, shift, double-back and march forward—right in front of our eyes. Remember: drawing is a static medium. Movement, rendered ongoing and unstoppable, is an illusion. It’s a measure of Gerard’s gifts that this momentum is realized and sustained.

Her painterly explorations recall Abstract Expressionism in their density and facture–Willem de Kooning is a point of inspiration. But the work’s architectonic clarity and spatial pull bring to mind touchstones that predate Modernism and lie outside the Western canon.

Celia Gerard, Khora II (2012), mixed media on watercolor paper, 40″ x 60″; courtesy Tayloe Piggott Gallery

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Poussin’s crystalline meditations on the landscape can be intuited in the unfurling geodesic vistas glimpsed in Khora and The Diver (both 2012), as can the supple linearity typical of Islamic art.  A habitué of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum, Gerard has communed with the crisply articulated dioramas of The Master of Osservanza, William Blake’s heady mysticism and the elegant concision of Japanese scroll painting. Gerard’s aesthetic compass is kaleidoscopic and voracious.

The longer you look at a Gerard painting the more its allusions accumulate, expand and cohere. The prerogatives of individual vision can do that; so, too, can an understanding of art’s formal possibilities. That Gerard puts them into practice without a lick of irony and to lyrical effect makes for art of uncommon and welcome grit.

© 2012 Mario Naves

Published on the occasion of Celia Gerard: New Work at Tayloe Piggott Gallery.

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