Maggi Hambling’s polarizing public sculptures was where I first came across her. A bust depicting Oscar Wilde, a writer, is seen sitting in a green granite coffin and smoking a cigarette while laughing at the passersby. An undulating silver plinth with silvered bronze sides, depicting 18-century feminist thinker Mary Wollstonecraft, shows a nude, silvered bronze statue. It is located in North London. These sculptures have a playful irreverence that rejects one-dimensional worship. But it’s not cheeky. Real TimeMarlborough Gallery is now showing, her first New York City exhibition. Instead, the swirling, gestural and surprisingly moving landscapes, seascapes and portraits offer more somber reflections about climate change and death.
Indigo, gray, and black are the colors Hamblings paints. They combine elements of abstract action painting and unmistakable representations mountains, rivers, or animals. Edge XIX (2021), welcomes visitors like a slow moving avalanche. The background shows a skeleton of a mountain, which is outlined in gray. As it fades, pieces of it are rendered in indigo in short, thick brushstrokes. The mountain appears to be melting in front of our eyes. Hamblings abstractions go beyond innumerable statistics, documentaries, and other information. Real TimeInduce emotional visceral reactions to the effects of climate change.
Wall of Water I (2010) creates an almost eerie feeling of disaster and a tsunami rushing towards the viewer. A few yellow bits curve around the blacks and blues, possibly adding a little light to the darkness, both in terms of subject and color. Wall of Water XII (2012) uses similar arch-like shapes with a touch of fuchsia for vigorating the blue.
A series of rectangular art pieces line the galleries’ first floor hallways. These include Edge XIV (2021) and Edge XV (2021). Although the works’ shape is reminiscent of Chinese scroll painting, it matches the setting of the gallery, creating a satisfying symmetry. The pairing is however a little monotonous. The first few times you feel like you are in the path or avalanche, it is a bracing sensation. However, the power of repetition decreases by the tenth.
The second floor of the exhibition is where the power returns with pieces like The Last Baboon (2018). In this piece, smeared black lines that resemble fingers run across the canvas and dissolve as they reach the edge. Baby elephant abandoned (2019): The theme of animals’ deaths returns. The animal is ruminating that it has huddled in itself for comfort, as can the brushstrokes of Hamblings.
Hambling said that I have never intended to be controversial. FriezeIn 2021, the sculptures that critics called “stinking” will be available. a Tussauds Wilde, or InfuriatingMary Wollstonecraft. Although those works may be entertaining to debate, their impact does not last. Hamblings paintings aren’t too pedantic. They remind viewers to reflect on what humanity will lose if it continues on its current path and how much we have already lost.
Maggi Hambling: Real Time Through April 30, the exhibition will continue at Marlborough Gallery (545 West 25th Street in Chelsea, Manhattan). The gallery organized the exhibit.