Ken Johnson, “Saul Becker,” The New York Times, June 19, 2009
The gallery is pleased to announce its second solo exhibition of works by Brooklyn-based artist Saul Becker. The exhibition will feature a new series of oil on linen paintings – the works, best described as composite landscapes, combine fragments from different locations and sources to create new, invented places.
As a contemporary landscape painter, Becker’s work is both genuine and deceiving: genuine in his use of a traditional genre without derision, and deceiving in his ability to make discoveries within this tried and true realm: “For many, painting a landscape might seem like an unusual choice for a painter in contemporary society, but for me, there is a major shift in the way people are relating to the environment and, therefore, a return to landscape is warranted. The places I’m drawn to for imagery are often the sites where naturalness seems most contested; superfund sites, defunct mines, polluted waterways, or sites of violent geologic activity—sites that don’t easily fit into our pastoral notions and mix uneasily with culture.”
Often using images from memory, found photographs, and snapshots from his travels, the artist’s most recent works focus more directly on industry’s effect upon nature and nature’s effect upon industrial vestiges. Substituting themes of discovery, exploration, and settlement with amnesia, entropy, and abandonment, Becker’s works employ a muted and subtle palette, which he attributes to growing up in the Pacific Northwest. The scenes’ cliffs, fallen logs, and endless horizons are contemplative and quietly unsettling, yet aesthetically beautiful reminders that there are aspects of nature that are out of the reach of our own time and control.
The opening of Vistas and Vacant Lots marks the final week (closing June 6th) of the artist’s project Nature Preserves at Artists Space, New York: The artist has spent the last two years collecting weeds near his home in industrial Brooklyn. From unlikely sites – gas stations, polluted Newtown Creek, corner vacant lots – Becker finds the most hearty of natural specimens in disregarded and unnatural sites. By developing a system of electroplating each plant sample, he archives what is overlooked, undocumented, and generally stepped on or built over. At Artists Space, Becker for the first time exhibits his electroplated plants, creating idealized fields of flora from un-idealized sources. In collaboration with sound artist and composer Stephen Vitiello, Becker’s plant specimens incorporate sound, echoing their Brooklyn homes. These objects, long used as a reference for Becker’s landscape paintings of industrial sites, are preserved and unlikely objects of beauty. Fierce underdogs of our cities’ industrial past and present, the work reminds us that nature is always just below (or creeping above) the surface.
Saul Becker (b. 1975, Tacoma, WA) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He received a MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University; Richmond, VA and a BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD); Halifax, NS. In addition to Horton Gallery / SUNDAY L.E.S., his work has been featured in solo projects at Artists Space and Volta NY. He was the recipient of the prestigious Virginia Museum of Fine Art Fellowship as well as a Washington State Arts Award. His work has been discussed in The New Yorker, NY Arts Magazine, and The Seattle Times, among others.