Leland Bell: Pictorial Drama

Leland Bell, Two Nudes with Cat, Morning 1989-90, acrylic on canvas, 80 x 64 1/2
Leland Bell, Two Nudes with Cat, Morning 1989-90, acrylic on canvas, 80 x 64 1/2 inches (courtesy of Lori Bookstein Fine Art)

Henry McMahon reviews the exhibition See It Loud: Seven Post-War American Painters at the National Academy Museum in New York (through January 26, 2014), focusing in particular on the paintings of Leland Bell.

McMahon writes that Bell’s "forms are described by open planes of light and shadow, with nothing but the color’s saturation and a bold contour to animate them as realistic surrogates for their real-life models. It’s formalist painting, to be sure—Bell was known to have re-calibrated his figural arrangements over the course of years—but the engagement of color and line creates a near metaphysical contradiction between the two... he displays a pitch perfect conjugation of form and content. The drama of Bell’s paint, of his shimmering color and muscular draftsmanship, finds its highest articulation in the domestic drama that is his most profound theme. Paint and image are reflexive. The juxtaposition of a pink to a blue is not only a visual metaphor for drama but part of a pictorial depiction of drama. The thrust of an arm through space is not only a picture of dramatic action but also a dramatic thrust of creamy, glowing white into midnight planes of black and blue."