Long live the tradition of the figure in abstract painting! For a classic example, consider the seamless way that Fay Lansner integrates the academic ethic of the life class with the sensuality of Abstract Expressionism. In “Fay Lansner: Figure and Form”—the intelligent and sensuous exhibition on view until August 23, 2018 at the Quogue Gallery—the artist reconciles what are conventionally held to be disparate aesthetics with the charm of appealing color and the authority of confident line.
Works such as Sacred and Profane Love, one of many strong moments in the show, convincingly argue for the persistence of the figural tradition even in Modernism’s most abstract hour. The painting’s liquid fields of blue and overlaid bands of pink, violet and gold drift toward Joan Mitchell or Richard Diebenkorn clouds of abstraction, even as the anatomy of the standing and reclining nude figures (usually women for this artist) anchor the work in the life drawing class. It is a contrapuntal statement on art’s ability to reconcile polarities.
For all the classy blues Lansner deploys in this work, my eye lingered on a pair of grisaille figures walking along, seemingly in conversation. Color and line, figuration and abstraction, in dialogue. As William Blake declared: “Without contraries there is no