I was very impressed with the paintings by Lesley Vance at this year’s Whitney Biennial. Vance is able to pack so much into her small jewel-like canvases. Some artists resort to larger formats, which can help mask their artistic shortcoming by using scale to produce a wow effect (though that doesn’t always work, think Julian Schnabel), but Vance is too sophisticated a painter to need that visual trick.
While the compositions can suggest figurative elements that appear amid the swirls of color, any semblance of representation quickly dissipates to reveal a canvas that is wholly abstract. Even though the works appear thoroughly contemporary, they did remind me a great deal of 17th C. Dutch painting (think love child of Frans Hals and Willem Claeszoon Heda) because of their size, dark shadowy backgrounds, and rich colors.
The row of paintings by Vance was one of the Biennial highlights.