Moved by the cadence and texture of the world around her, Joan Snyder’s relationship with colors is so synergetic it’s as if she can hear the reds, greens, and browns of the flowers that bloom in her Brooklyn garden; it’s as if she can see a symphony of color when she listens to jazz. In “ComeClose,” her new exhibition at Canada in New York, the artist presents a maximalist tapestry woven from iconography that first appeared in her early paintings.
Throughout her decades-spanning career, the 83-year-old painter has built up a cryptic yet evocative visual vocabulary that features a lexicon of symbol, fragments of the female anatomy, celestial beings, marks and lines, lentil seeds, fabric, papier-mâché, flowers, branches, leaves, glitter, light bulbs, and vibrant colors. In Snyder’s new show, works like Autobiography, 2023, with its magenta-hued patterns, build off her past. The evocative marks recall a 1972 journal entry in which the artist reflected on the impactful summer three years prior. It was then that—in addition to many learnings—she developed the grid-like brushstrokes that would later become known as her seminal “Stroke” paintings. “They are sometimes soft…they sometimes laugh and are often violent,” she wrote in her diary. “They bleed and cry and struggle to tell my story with marks and colors and lines and shapes.”
Snyder has long used the abstract as a vessel for the autobiographical, having first honed in on her own notion of female sensibility in the late ‘60s, framed by political unrest spurred from the Vietnam War and propelled by new voices emerging from the civil rights and feminist movements. In the mid ’70s, she doubled down on her perspective with works such as her triptych “Small Symphony For Women,” and has continued doing so since. In her 1997 work, My Maggie, for instance, there is a tender and personal urgency of queer awakening in the phrases emblazoned on her canvas: “my girlfriend” and “my love.”
At Canada, the dualities of Snyder’s practice—the female body and nature, paganism and the divine, and alienation and acceptance—color the gallery’s walls. Here, a rose bush’s buds and stems are cannibalized across a plethora of mixed media. Upon closer inspection, the collage-like My August, 2023 and Only in April, 2023 reveal more secrets to decipher. Throughout these works, the artist similarly recognizes there are more possibilities and potentials that await her discovery, too.
“Joan Snyder: ComeClose” is on view through February 24, 2024 at Canada Gallery at 60 Lispenard St, New York, NY.