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Emily Mason | Artnet

Breath of Fresh Air, 2016, Oil on canvas, 52 x 50 inches, 132.1 x 127 cm

by David Ebony

While a younger generation of artists, led by Katharina Grosse, Carol Bove, and others, are finding renewed significance and surprising rewards in extemporaneous abstract painting and sculpture, certain veterans like Emily Mason never lost faith in its limitless possibilities. Mason is heir to a long lineage of artistic forebears, perhaps most notably her mother, Alice Trumbull Mason, who was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group in the mid-1930s. Emily’s childhood memories include visits from Mondrian, and watching Miró paint in a studio adjacent to her mother’s. Painting was in her blood, but she diverged from her mother’s penchant for hard-edge abstraction, and instead gravitated in the 1950s toward a more informal, intuitive process centered on color relationships and fluid gestures, which she has been developing and refining ever since. Her expansive and elusive compositions in some way establish a vital link between Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting.

The luminous and youthfully hyper-energetic paintings by Emily Mason in this show, which hardly seem to be the work of an octogenarian, are among the best of her long career. The color red is widely regarded by painters as a particularly difficult color to control. Mason seems to relish the challenge here in large canvases such as Rush Hour, Pressure Point and Breath of Fresh Air, in which passages of subtly shifting analogous tones of orange-red, magenta, and pink collide and commingle in not-so-subtle, heightened degrees of dynamic tension. Intense, contrasting touches of blue and turquoise punctuating the warm, ethereal clouds of color in Renewable and Sailor’s Delight, further activate Mason’s distinctive, cosmic space.

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