Amy Sillman is an uncompromising painter. The Brooklyn-based artist’s widely influential body of work has built on familiar formats such as landscape, portraiture, abstraction, and caricature, only to move past them, pushing these motifs and categories into new places. Since August 2006, Sillman has engaged a very traditional practice: drawing figures from life. Seventeen different couples, all of them close friends and peers, are depicted in black-ink drawings. Sillman deliberately places herself as the third person in a triangle, allowing for a distanced view while acknowledging her profound connection to her subjects. After the sessions, she makes further drawings, some memory-based, some analytical, and uses these as a template for an entirely new set of paintings. The details of the figures gradually drain of representation as the forms become more geometric and structural. On view for the first time, these drawings and paintings negotiate and complicate the intersections between abstraction and figuration.
The finished paintings are built from numerous layers, continuously erased, reworked, and covered over in sections. This process creates a sense of tension between areas of lightness and heaviness, and between barely visible outlines of body parts and architectural planes of color. Sillman is known for paintings that are personal and psychologically charged, full of humor and poignancy. She combines her emotional and tactile concerns with an intellectual investigation into the unique qualities of her medium. Ultimately, the new works in Third Person Singular present intimate feelings and anxieties in a formal abstract language.