STEVEN SEINBERG

“ I ask you for nothing, nothing that comes from the other world: only the light on the sea” - Octavio Paz


ABOUT

Steven Seinberg was born in Brooklyn, then later moved to Georgia, where he attended Atlanta College of Art for his BFA and Georgia State University for his MFA. Inspired by pioneering Abstract Expressionists such as Cy Twombly, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still his work uses a formula of graphite, oil, and canvas to create these breath-like creations. Seinberg’s somber pallet, bold strokes, and poetic line work connect the outside world with motion as incessant and loss being inevitable. Seinberg is continually inspired by the biological senses, environmental factors, and emotional responses to these surroundings. His use of earth tones and bold strokes provide these mesmeratic applications, leaving the viewer in a transcendence of time and space. 

ESSAYS

THE RESONANCE OF POETRY IN PAINTING 

By Robert C. Morgan (March 2019)

          Expressionist forms of painting have found new ways of evolving in recent years, especially in American art.  It seems that artists are pervasively seeking to give painting another form of openness, which exists without self-imposed constraints.  Having said this, I find in the works of Steven Seinberg a “delicate balance” whereby his lucid, yet tenuous forms become what they are through the artist’s keen self-reflective ability to visualize his painterly process each step of the way. His paintings do not require a theory. Instead they offer sensitive viewers an invitation to engage in the act of seeing on the level of visual tactility; the actual encounter with his gestural forms unlocks new meaning, which resonates beyond our expectations. 

          Seinberg’s paintings ride on the edge of something unforeseen, a painterly ethos that gives the texture of his surfaces a sense of accuracy, another openness on the reality of what makes a painting become a painting. To accomplish this with alacrity and confidence is in itself meaningful. Seinberg’s paintings radiate a transcendence and grandeur on a scale that few painters are capable of achieving today. They re-open the fundamentals, and in doing so, offer a new chapter in the history of connoisseurship. To see a Seinberg painting with clarity, is to know where it exists in time and how it sustains an eloquence of its own.

          Seinberg’s paintings involve a complex process in addition and subtraction, as he ardently focuses on the preliminary aspects of releasing form from rigid confines. What may appear as an instantaneous splash of ochre pigment is more complex and in some ways innately inconspicuous. The challenge, of course, is to obtain poetic insight through various methods of manipulating the materiality of pigment, thus giving the surface a clear and convincing visual effect removed from the obvious. I refer to a painting titled, Lagoon (2018), in which Seinberg combines oil paint with graphite and various mixed media as he does consistently in his work. Of course, the effect is intended to look as if it happened in a glance; but then there is the challenge to go deeper, to penetrate into the actual structure of how the oppositional dark and light elements are applied and/or removed, and how they appear to combine with one another at the same moment on a single surface. The result is, in fact, a poetic one.

Indeed, Seinberg’s paintings may function as a form of “visual poetry”— to cite the expression given to the artist’s work by Seinberg’s gallerist. While we may argue over the meaning of the term, language-in-itself will not help us clarify the artist’s experience. Rather we are obliged to decode the artist’s vision from another perspective, such as seeking out Seinberg’s lyrical fascination with what he sees and how he transports that vision onto canvas. In this way, others may (or may not) take part in the artist’s emotional involvement. It is finally up to the viewer, as it always is, when one encounters a new painting for the first time. How do we discover the emotional content of an artist’s work unknown to us in the past?  And how do we envision the visual antecedents in a painting, which, after all, are limited in how they historically possess the surface?

These are important questions, particularly as art comes to the screen where our tactile response to painting is in competition with other more seductive images representing politics and advertisements in a way that art does not.  As an alternative, I prefer the notion of visual poetry in the manner that it transforms our vision of painting. As the San Francisco poet Michael McClure once exclaimed some years ago, we need poetry that gives us “relief from the revolution,” despite what the revolution was or has become in recent years. The point is this:  Steven Seinberg’s paintings impress me as having the potential to enact a way of seeing through color and form – to offer an alternative way of coming to terms with an optical tactility, where the retina reaches out and makes contact with our emotions in a way that instigates a refinement of desire. This is a phenomenon that belongs to painting in that it denotes when a painting becomes significant.  The act of seeing a painting in the most complete sense should allow for a sheer haptic experience.

          Only the Light on the Sea, is the title of this exhibition. What could be more poetic?  It is not simply the title, but the content embraced through it.  I sense this line as having a special resonance that goes beyond obvious surface maneuvers into the language of paint; a language deeply inscribed by an acute consciousness of motion, a memory that travels the distance between chaos and sensuality. The configuration of this gestural motion in Seinberg’s, Nothing That Comes From the Other World (2019), offers the viewer a redemption through the pulse, namely the feeling of  the heartbeat taken beyond the grasp of particulars, yet known to be the cause of what brings us into the world, that is, a way of seeing the world as a myriad of poetic infusions without default.

          Having just seen the exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Epic Abstraction, the poetry is sometimes present, yet at other times difficult to trace. The paintings are large. Several belong to the Abstract Expressionist painters seven or eight decades ago. The grand scale of these works is manifested everywhere. Whereas the curation, the concept, and the mounting of the exhibition is problematic, there were several works worthy of attention – some first-rate Rothko paintings, to be sure. I mention this only to suggest that within the logos of expressionism – whatever the context: cultural or historical – the poetic message is not always a priority. Other issues, both internal and external – appear to over-ride it. To explain the poetic content in a painting is a challenge. But here lies the crux of the matter as to why it requires justification as something necessary, if not vital, to visual art today.

          It is clear that Seinberg’s paintings, whether in his signature work-on-paper format or his large canvases, both reach out implicitly toward poetry in a more direct way than much Abstract Expressionism. Within the process of “reaching out,” one discovers the tension within his painterly language that gives poetic content to the work. I am thinking of, Below Her Closed Eyes (2019), where a densely concentrated area of blackness is askew to the right in the painting. How does this form reach out? And what does it mean?  One might presuppose that the form as an eye is not, literal. Rather it may represent a feeling of embarkation toward sleep. The diagonal position appears necessary as does the purposefully rendered lack of a clearly defined space. The poetry in not simply about representation, but the sensory feeling expressed in the weariness that follows extreme wakefulness as the “closed eye” enters into sleep, which is the domain of the unconscious.

          Having recently read William Blake’s, Songs of Innocence and Experience (1788 – 94), the play of oppositions between two sensorial states of mind often appears less obvious than one might expect. Initially, Blake goes for what is simple and direct, then transforms this worldly phenomenon into a paradoxical ambiguity that elicits a metaphysical state of mind beyond the everyday world. In a similar way, one might consider that Seinberg is less interested in painting oppositions than in the passages between them. What we see in the everyday world is not what the artist paints. Rather the atmosphere he paints moves us toward another hemisphere where we allow ourselves to embrace meaning through an emotional response to the lost intervals of time that intercede upon our expectations of what is real. As Blake continued to question what is real, Seinberg brings this quest into the  present – less as a proposition than as a search for everyday transcendence.

          Because of Seinberg’s desire to take his sensory responses outside of chaos, the paintings remain steady, which should not be confused with repetition.  Rather his lyrical scope as a painter implies the need to evolve a vision through the agency of his materials. Certainly, color is part of this, as is form. But, in addition, there is the artist’s ability to expand a painting, as in, Spreading to Water (2017), into a poetic context that is something more than an expression. Perhaps, we could call it a metaphysical extension of the real, an idea transformed into a harkening sensibility that removes itself from fashionable trends.

          The poetry in painting, which I understand as essential to the work of Seinberg, does not require a political message. Nor does it advance a retreat into “art for art’s sake.” Neither are relevant to Seinberg’s work (although, undoubtedly, there are those will argue otherwise). To retrieve the poetry within the surface of Spreading to Water, is a matter of seeing and of coming to terms with one’s position in physical, mental, and emotional terms. What gives this painting its sense of completeness is the discovery that poetry is held within the surface, possibly unknown to the painter himself, until the moment when it suddenly erupts, ready to transcend the mediated chaos of common ideas.

 


CRITICAL ESSAY By Karina Noel Hean (March 2011)
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Inertia is an impossibility . . .  in a life, in a river, in a painting. Steven Seinberg’s paintings imply that motion is an incessant and loss inevitable. While the desire for rest propels and holds us, it is only a temporary possibility from which we proceed and to which we progress. Embracing vagueness, Seinberg paints translucent space in layers of colorful grays occupied by indefinable elements in brief states of buoyancy, suspension, and sometimes tumult. As a cycle of paintings, the work produced from 2004-2011 reflects a key feature of a river’s ecosystem – the persistence of similar change.

Seinberg’s somber paintings evolve from and update the work of mid-twentieth century American Abstract Expressionist painters, such as Cy Twombly, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still, from the perspective of a twenty-first century American. The action that occurs in the openness of his large canvases is witness to a heightened sensitivity, nostalgia, and humility grounded in a spirituality of natural phenomena.  While the exploration of format and media clearly engage Seinberg, as they did his predecessors, they do so largely to serve his investigation of how life of a river flows and unfolds.

In much of the work, and particularly present in “Waiting” 2008, a personal entomology occurs as one repeated character, a black biological tangle, is restated and reformed in new circumstances. In “Morning” 2009 the possibility of stillness is presented in a definitive horizon line and vacuous depths dense, white layers. The script above the horizon and dark marks below remind us that peace, though desired, is however fleeting – the day must begin, water flows . . . change is pending. “Flows Through” 2010 pushes and buoys a living bundle past the state of inertia as water moves dirt; sometimes here and this way, sometimes there, and that way. Temporary resolution occurs in “Center of Rest” 2009 as a dangling lifeform remains suspended, just beneath the firm horizon line that separates a warm world above and a cool, dark world below. A soft release of earthy yellow forms resumes in “Emerge” 2010 and declares the constancy of change in organic systems. Seinberg maps a non-linear, kinetic narrative of a cycle that charts the stages of motion from inertia, release, and progress, back to rest, and again to emergence as the paintings consider how life is affected beneath the water’s surface, underground, and out of view.

As they are intuitively developed, the paintings reveal the history of their process. The canvases seem witness to lengthy pondering and reflection, interrupted by momentarily decisive attacks; they capture a kind of time and volume. Indeed, the action of hoe marks and brushstrokes are made is the core of Seinberg’s subject matter. The work displays an affinity for chance and embraces the materiality of his preferred media: graphite and thin washed of paint. Drips, smears, and translucency create a powerfully sparse space and offer quiet visual anchors in the nebulous fields of Seinberg’s surfaces.

Balance between careful, subtle calligraphic lines and emphatic, swirling gestures evoke a latent emotional tension in much of the work and is starkly evident in “Night Opens” 2008. Indecipherable text emerges from layers of wash and paint like fleeting thoughts made momentarily important. In “Flows Forward” 2008 discernable forms or phrases are hushed by the painting’s complex gray and earth tone palette. Seinberg clearly values mark making and handwriting a moment of personal attentiveness, which as in the painting “Lift” 2008, are vulnerably situated amongst vast and mysterious spaces.

His economical and yet passionate compositions reflect the language and meter of Octavio Paz’s poems, whose lines often appear as Seinberg’s canvases and serve as several of his titles. This echoing relationship is at times reciprocal. An excerpt from Paz’s poem “Summit and Gravity” keenly captures the visual experience of these numinous paintings: “…Between firmness and vertigo/you are transparent balance…”

In Steven Seinberg’s work, voices and natural forms are muffled; submerged beneath the surface, pushing towards the viewer as sounds against the air through water can be heard. The elusive organic imagery of Seinberg’s paintings emerge from his attempt to find place in the world, to see the macroscopic in the microscopic- life in the river and the inevitable interconnection between coexistent systems in a large ecology.

 

BIO/CV

BORN | 1969, Brooklyn,NY

EDUCATION
2001| MFA Georgia State University
1994| BFA Atlanta College of Art


SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2017
Soren Christensen Gallery, "Under Light and Water” New Orleans, Louisiana
Foosaner Museum, Frits Van Eeden Gallery Melbourne, Florida
Pryor Fine Art, Atlanta, Georgia 2016 Bryant Street Gallery
“Recent Paintings” Palo Alto, California Soren Christensen Gallery
“Point of Origin” New Orleans, Louisiana
 

2015
Pryor Fine Art, Atlanta, Georgia

2014
Soren Christensen Gallery, “Water’s Edge” New Orleans, Louisiana

2013
Pryor Fine Art, Atlanta,
Georgia Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

2012
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana Gallery One, Nashville, Tennessee

2011
Selby Fleetwood Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Haen Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans
Louisiana Craighead-Green Gallery, Dallas, Texas

2010
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana Bill Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia

2009
Brenda Taylor Gallery New York, New York Craighead-Green Gallery, Dallas, Texas

2008
Soren Christensen Gallery, “Waiting for the Right Moment”, New Orleans, Louisiana
Bill Lowe Gallery, “Flows Forward”, Atlanta, Georgia Bill Lowe Gallery
“Flows Forward”, Santa Monica, California

2007
Craighead-Green Gallery, Dallas, Texas
Hodges Taylor Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina

2006
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans
Louisiana Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia

2005
Craighead-Green Gallery, Dallas, Texas

2004
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
Cidnee Patrick Gallery, Dallas, Texas


2003
Lowe Gallery, Santa Monica, California
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

2002
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana
Edith Baker Gallery, Dallas, Texas

2001
Lowe Gallery, “New River”, Atlanta, Georgia

2000 Lowe Gallery, “Ground Line”, Atlanta, Georgia

1999 Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia

1998
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
Gallery Soolip, ”Ripening”, West Hollywood, California

1997
Lowe Gallery, “Changes”, Atlanta, Georgia

1996
Lowe Gallery, “New Work”, Atlanta, Georgia

1995
Lowe Gallery, “New Work”, Atlanta, Georgia
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia

1994
Chassie Post Gallery, “Seed Series”, Atlanta, Georgia

GROUP EXHIBITONS
2017
Bryant Street Gallery, Palo Alto, CA
Art Wynwood, Rosenbaum Contemporary, Miami, Florida

2016
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

2015
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

2014
Pryor Fine Art, Atlanta, Georgia
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

2013
artMRKT, Bryant St Gallery, San Francisco, California
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana
Haen Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina
Craighead-Green Gallery, Dallas, Texas

2012
Hickory Museum of Art, "Waking Up With Van Gogh", North Carolina
Craighead-Green Gallery, Dallas, Texas
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

2011
Moot Gallery, "Year of the Rabbit", Hong Kong
Haen Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina
Craighead-Green Gallery, Dallas, Texas
Bill Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia

2010
Asheville Art Museum, “Looking Back”, Asheville, NC

2009
Verge Art Fair, Brenda Taylor Gallery- New York, Miami, Florida
Craighead-Green Gallery, “Stimulate”,Dallas, Texas
Bill Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

2008
Rosenbaum Contemporary, Boca Raton, Florida
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana
Craighead-Green Gallery, Dallas, Texas

2007
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
Craighead-Green Gallery, Dallas, Texas
Rosenbaum Contemporary, Boca Raton, Florida
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

2006
Craighead-Green Gallery, Dallas, Texas
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
Lowe Gallery, “In Search of Source”, Santa Monica, California

2005
Art Miami, Miami, FL
Lowe Gallery, “Sweet Sixteen”, Atlanta, GA
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

2004
Lowe Gallery, “15th Anniversary show”, Atlanta, GA
Lowe Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana
Cidnee Patrick Gallery, Dallas, Texas
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA
Toast to Life, benefit for HIV services, Dallas, Texas

2003
Lowe Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana
Cidnee Patrick Gallery, Dallas, Texas
Lowe Gallery, “14th Anniversary show”, Atlanta, GA

2002
Lowe Gallery, gallery artists, Santa Monica, CA
Huntsville Museum of Art, “Survey of Art in the Southeast”, Huntsville, Alabama
Lowe Gallery, “13th Anniversary show”, Atlanta, GA
Warren Wilson College, Faculty exhibition, Asheville, NC
Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana

2001
Lowe Gallery, “12th Anniversary show”, Atlanta, GA
University of North Carolina Gallery, Faculty exhibition, Asheville, NC

2000
Lowe Gallery, “11th Anniversary show”, Atlanta, GA
Atlanta College of Art Gallery, “Alumni exhibition”, Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta, GA
Art Papers Auction, benefit for Art Papers magazine, Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA

1999
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA
Lowe Gallery, Donald Sultan, Attila Richard Lukacs, Markus Lupertz, Steven Seinberg, Atlanta, GA
Lowe Gallery, 10th Anniversary exhibition, Atlanta, GA
Benefit for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Peninsula House, Atlanta, GA
The Octavia Hill Project, Auction to benefit the Women and Children’s Advocacy Program, Atlanta, GA

1998
Olga Dollar Gallery, “Abstraction Redefined”, San Francisco, California
Gallery Soolip, “Retrospective”, West Hollywood, CA
Olga Dollar Gallery, “Context”, San Francisco, CA
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA
Atlanta College of Art Gallery, “Alumni exhibition”, Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta, GA

1997
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA Lowe

1996
Allene LaPides Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA Art Care

1996,
Benefit auction for persons with AIDS, Swissotel, Atlanta, GA

1995
Lowe Gallery, “Something for Everyone”, Atlanta, GA
Art Care Benefit auction for persons with AIDS, Swissotel, Atlanta, GA

1994
Studio 2, Printmaking exhibition, Old Highland Bakery, Atlanta, GA

1993
The November Show, Juried exhibition of Atlanta artists, Atlanta, GA
Chassie Post Gallery, Atlanta, GA Art Care
Benefit auction for persons with AIDS, Swissotel, Atlanta, GA
Atlanta College of Art Gallery, Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta