Suzanne McClelland


16.4.2010 - 5.6.2010


New York artist Suzanne McClelland occasionally creates expansive „walk-in-paintings“ such as her 1992 piece at the Whitney Museum in New York. At Andres Thalmann Gallery she presents her paintings and monotypes superimposed on uniquely crafted wallpapers. McClelland juxtaposes the exuberant formal laguages of various media and thereby creates a pulsating environment that embraces the entire gallery.


In her works the artist transforms the sounds of words into visual language. Only rarely can one read the words that inform her pieces. Characters are superimposed, juxtaposed and scattered across the canvas. The viewer often encounters a plentitude of e’s and o’s. The dense constellations of ciphers evoke the sounds of speech; they often produce sharp or bright resonating chambers that seem to hover on a fog-like surface. Elsewhere they are pushed back and silenced by opaque milky-white layers of paint.


Since the 1990s McClelland has explored the sound and meaning of specific words and sentences. Her works are not based on texts but on the utterances of spoken language. Accordingly, the artist does not subjugate words to a strict textual structure imposed by reading from left to right, top to bottom. Rather, it is the ambiguity of direct speech and the prominence of intonation that propel her compositions.


In her serially linked bodies of work Toy, Heap and Erase, McClelland explores the semantic range of the depicted words by allowing characters and sounds to clash in every possible way. Letters are linked up in dense networks or pilled up to precarious stacks. Occasionally, they accumulate to a point of density where their identity is completely obliterated. As a counterpoint to this accumulation, McClelland introduces fields of white paint that completely or partially obliterate preceding layers. These luminous spaces interrupt the torrent of words and may introduce a moment of stillness.


In her monotypes McClelland is concerned with the sign o, which can be read as a letter, a number or an abstract shape. The o’s dissolve into a variety of shapes – ovals, spirals, and writing. Some forms seem to weave over and under each other; many are collaged with painted and printed spheres and webs. The publication “Suzanne McClelland: Rock and Shift” (2008), provides an overview of this cycle that is so rich in variation. The motifs from some monotypes provide the pattern for the wallpapers that McClelland specially crafted for the exhibition space at the Andres Thalmann Gallery.


Ruth Littman



Press text (pdf)