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Greener Lean, 1978, Oil on canvas, 42 x 50 inches

At one of Miles McEnery’s multiple Chelsea spaces, Emily Mason’s “The Thunder Hurried Slow" presented paintings mainly from the late 1970s, with a few from the late 1960s and early 1970s. (The title comes from an Emily Dickinson poem.) In 1965, Mason (1932-2019) and her painter husband Wolf Kahn had moved back to New York, after almost a decade in Europe, and a few years later purchased the Vermont farm where they would spend summers for the rest of their long working lives. Given when they were made, it’s not an overstatement to say that the works in the recent show seemed to reflect Mason’s deep experience of Italy and Italian art, as well as her growing familiarity with the light and landscape of New England. Noteworthy for their ample scale and radiant color, and built, for the most part, with economical, layered, transparent sweeps, the paintings on view gave us Mason at her best. Hear the Wind Blow (1972) and And the Sea Beyond (1972) played bright, soft-edged rectangles against glowing yellow fields to hint simultaneously at dazzling light and man-made structures, before engaging us simply as painting. Similarly, Greener Lean (1978) and Powder Blue (1979), both named for their dominant hues, claimed and held our attention with their contrasts of paint applications, from responsive and runny to assertive to almost unseeably transparent, at the same time that the fresh spring palette of the former triggered associations with the natural world, and the pale hues of the latter recalled bleached skies and Italian frescos. It was good to see Mason painting with such confidence and authority.

— Karen Wilkin

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