Whitehot Magazine

Stanford Kay at Garrison Art Center

Stanford Kay, Pyramid Dreams, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, 2012, (all images courtesy of the artist unless otherwise noted)

By D. DOMINICK LOMBARDI March 5, 2024

The Garrison Art Center, a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit arts and education organization set along the Hudson River in Garrison Landing, NY, is celebrating its 60th year in operation. Known for its edgy and excellent exhibitions and community outreach, it is one of the Hudson Valley’s shining lights in an ever changing world.  

One of the two current exhibitions features a concise 12 year survey of Stanford Kay’s more recent thought provoking paintings. Over the many years that I have been following Kay’s career, he has been a master of color theory, often arranging hard to control, bold color combinations with precise compositional order that feels more organic than planned. This is the same case with the works here today. 

The earliest paintings in the exhibition look like select scenes from an afternoon at a jaunty junkyard. Pyramid Dreams (2012) is the only one of these older paintings of this type that clearly shows a sky, which in turn says ‘landscape’. Moving in for a closer look, one can see an intuitive, and at times reactive thinking process where paint is added, glazed over, scraped or scratched off then edged in with accent lines in a whirlwind of invigorating visual energy.

Stanford Kay, Pyramid Dreams (detail), acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, 2012, (photo courtesy of the author)

Another grouping of three paintings from 2020-21 propose the concept of a cage-as-vessel where thoughts, visual impulses and memories are stored. Kay has pointed out to me more than once that there is no preliminary planning aside from sequential thinking, which is how an artist’s mind often works through and expands a series. In his statement, Kay writes his practice is “A dialog between unconscious impulses and a desire to create meaning…”. Meaning that grows and evolves during the process of painting, and one that continues to expand in the thoughts of the viewer. 

Stanford Kay, Outlier, (detail), acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 inches, 2021, (photo courtesy of the author)

Outlier (2021) is the most eye-catching of the three with its more vibrant color combinations and deeper tones. It is also important to note here, how Kay uses things like found plastic or metal mesh as a stencil or a paint applicator to create selectively placed texture. Remembrance of Things (2021), as hinted by its title, can be viewed as a portrait of sorts. It features some dark elements, some deep and others light, all contained and stabilized within a curiously formed matrix defined by its strength and frailty. It is this framework that reminds me much of the art of Kay Sage, who often painted haunting, somber preliminary or post use architectural structures in a futuristic wasteland. However, in Stanford Kay’s work, his reality is much less haunting, more focused and far more autobiographical. However, the linkage is still there between the two Kay’s.

Stanford Kay, Remembrance of Things, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, 2021 

The newest works in the exhibition are Open Heart (2023) and The Space Between Us (2023). Open Heart is inspired by a friend’s recent heart surgery, which is represented with a red, boxy, valve-like structure in the upper left quadrant of the painting. A component of the painting that can double as a box kite, which makes one think that the operation was successful since kites have a more positive connotation. The rest of the painting is filled with such things as a twisting water hose-like lines, fleshy or green shapes and a small reference to the earlier use of cage vessels resulting in what artists often call a one-off painting. An essential and pivotal work – an in-between painting that allows the artist a more expansive field of experimentation until the next series begins to come to light.

Stanford Kay, Open Heart, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 inches, 2023

The most recent and markedly different work in the exhibition is The Space Between Us (2023). It is strategically placed near the front door suggesting that this is a new taking off point - the start of a very different journey that Kay has embarked upon. Having the quietest color and simplest composition, The Space Between Us symbolizes big changes to his process. The biggest is the dominant technique of stenciling, which covers almost the entire surface of the canvas. The Space Between Us also has the most Mid-Modernist feel with its Arp-like shapes and use of a ready-made-type aesthetic interpretation in the form of a stencil. I even think of Picasso’s first use of collage here, where the faux caning paper pushes through the dominance of Cubism in Still Life with Chair Caning (1912). 

Stanford Kay, The Space Between Us, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 inches, 2023

These changing times are big, bold moments for artists. Change that brings new life, great anticipation and all the more reason to create, and Stanford Kay’s evolving journey is a joy to observe.

“Stanford Kay” at Garrison Art Center, located at 23 Garrison's Landing. Garrison, NY, is just across from Garrison station on Metro-North Railroad's Hudson Line. Visitor parking is also nearby. WM

D. Dominick Lombardi

D. Dominick Lombardi is an artist, art writer and curator based in New York. A 45-Year retrospective of his art, which was curated by T. Michael Martin, has traveled from the Clara M. Eagle Gallery at MSU in Western Kentucky in 2019, to the Marie Walsh Sharpe Gallery of Contemporary Art, Ent Center for the Arts, UCCS in Colorado Springs in 2021 – next moving to the Dowd Gallery at SUNY Cortland, New York in February, 2022. Some of his writing credits include the New Art Examiner (1997-98), ARTnews (1997), The New York Times (1998-2005), Juxtapoz (2002), Art in Asia (2007-2009), The Huffington Post (2012-2018), ARTES (2016-present), CultureCatch (2006-present), and dArt International magazine (2005-present). Lombardi’s most recent curatorial projects are “LandX” for Red fox Contemporary in Pound Ridge, NY (2021), “A Horse Walks Into a Bar” for the Hampden Gallery at UMASS Amherst, MA, (2020) and “I Am…” for the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, FL, (2020). Contributor portrait by Danh Nguyen. 

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