Horton Gallery (Lower East Side) is pleased to announce Newfoundland, an exhibition of new work by New York-based artist Saul Becker.
The work in Newfoundland stems from Saul Becker’s travels to the north-easternmost province of Canada. Producing images on the basis of an excursion in nature may connote a Romantic attitude (towards the land and towards art): Becker’s work, however, has the distinction of appearing lyrical – and comparable to the 19th century tradition of landscape painting on this count – yet driven by a technique and conceptual impetus that is wholly contemporary. The work has the kind of emotional appeal artists like Turner sought in their attempt to capture the sublime, counterbalanced with a cool, urban objectivity in execution and subject matter.
Whereas in the past, the aim of landscape painting was to exalt the beauty of the natural world, underlining our powerlessness before its force, Saul Becker’s pictures present an inversion of this dynamic. His work calls attention to the damaging imprint humans have made on the earth. These landscape pictures, then, are not about our defenselessness before nature, but a lament of how a certain greed for power has impacted the earth and modified it negatively.
Becker’s preoccupation with nature that is tampered with by human hands extends into his practice as an artist: He too enacts a kind of altering invasion all his own. The works on view are manipulated images. They do not refer to any real place, but are rather composite landscapes, elements culled from photographs and memory, then reconfigured to represent new and imaginary spaces. Building on the technique of photomontage, which dethroned the generally accepted veracity of “the photograph,” Becker’s composition is then transposed to painting, a final gesture which makes more seamless the disparate variety which the artist fuses into a single convincing image.
Here the artist commits more confidently to an aesthetic long established as his own, the juxtaposition of a dark, ominous mood offset by a solemn simplicity in form. The precise, detail-driven rendering of these invented landscapes pertains to the stylistic vocabulary that makes Saul Becker’s work instantly recognizable, yet this meticulous execution indicates a conceptual conceit on his part. He employs the language of science (exactitude) to describe places of wholly fictional provenance. Physically, each work is an amalgam; various aspects configured anew. A total vision of this unique practice and Becker’s work in general reveals another kind of cross-breed in which style and sincerity, sentiment and science are not mutually exclusive.
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. Recent group shows include the 01SJ Biennial in San Jose, CA and the Spring Exhibition at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, NY. He was the recipient of the prestigious Virginia Museum of Fine Art Fellowship, as well as the Washington State Arts Award. He is a 2010 NYFA Fellow and was awarded residencies with The Artic Circle 2010 Expedition and Gros Morne Artist In Residence. His work has been discussed in The New Yorker, NY Arts Magazine, and The Seattle Times, among others.