New American Paintings is a bi-monthly exhibition-in-print published six times a year. Each issue covers a different region of the United States and judged by a different person each time. The artists published are considered winners of the juried competition. Three images of their works, a resume and an artist’s statement make up the composition of the periodical along with some minimal advertising that is placed at the end of the competition catalogue. Each issue retails for $20 and a two-year subscription is most economical at $149. I have subscribed for five years now and find it to be a terrific resource for seeing what the current state of art is and what ideas are coming to fruition in different parts of the country.
The first issue I received was #45 May 2003 covering the Mid-Atlantic region. The highlight from the selected winners was Joshua Ferry, then hailing from Southern New Jersey. His winning work was non-objective, but as you will now see on his website he is also producing works highlighting the relationship in size between the State of Maine and the State of Iraq, and subsequently, the relationship in size of life in America and a war overseas. There are influences from Jasper Johns and Ed Ruscha in those works, but it is still his non-objective pieces that spin my eyes. I Will Follow, an acrylic on canvas work, is a stack of color on a nondescript grey ground that appears to contain some similar rectangular relief. In a very simple yet delicious manner, Ferry sets up both depth and height, a comparison between the brightly colored pieces of information and the rather depressing background behind the piece… non-objective but closely related to the more politically charged paintings below. A presentation of facts and surrounding evidence. Brightly colored data stacking up for the public, displaying the hard-to-avoid statistics of a war that contains too much grey spaces to justify the cause. Bandaged information providing relief to the creator, to facilitate the usage of the ground.
Issue #46 July 2003 covered the Southern states and winner Paul Aho composed beautiful, Gerhard Richter-like abstractions. Working with polar mediums, acrylic and oil, Aho weaves dense fabric on wood in vivid color schemes that excite and confuse the viewer. Illusions of depth and precedent confound, we get wrapped up inside the separations between the fields and soon find ourselves covered in his blankets. There are some pieces displayed on his website that do not appeal to me, for instance, those compositions that contain the curly-q / French curves in them as I feel they unfairly distract from the natural movement he creates by working in a grid-like environment, however, they do provide an extreme sense of contrast for certain viewers to run with. Perhaps his patrons or collectors favor these works, or maybe they are just stepping stones to a new dynamicism in his works. Regardless, these are pleasing works that allow us the gateway for temporary escape, a rest from our own lives and a chance to get caught up in the strings of abstraction, a way to look outward while viewing the reflections from inward.