Working against his customary impulse to inform his oil on panel pieces with titles containing a vague personal exemplum, Chuck Webster has kept each of the paintings in this exhibition untitled, pushing the formal function of abstraction to an ever purer and more universal station, undefined yet still resolved. Further deviating from previous paintings which were each an idiosyncratic image often on a smaller panel, the final surface on this body of work is a skittering, plangent line, with a consistent language throughout the group of mostly large scale paintings. Lending immediacy to the lush texture of the under painting’s countless layers, these looser, brushy contours alternately resemble the ancient footprints of excavated villages and a contemporary cartoon aesthetic reminiscent of Phillip Guston, Carroll Dunham or Jonathan Lasker: the hieroglyphics of a visionary.

In fact this nervous, musical drawing harkens back to the artist’s early works on paper, marking a return as much as a bold step forward. Thus the grand scale and cumulative effect of the sequence is apt for a series at once singular and signature. An excerpt from Carol Diehl’s 2011 review in Art in America still serves to illuminate:

At first glance, the quirky, cartoonlike quality of Webster's semiabstractions may seem more trendy than profound. With a little scrutiny, however, this impression is mitigated by the ambiguity of the subject matter—which, like all good abstraction, seems to be filled with meaning while actually signifying no specific thing. Points of reference are also ambiguous: often biomorphic, other times jagged, these emblematic symbols could just as easily be co-opted from early tribal paintings as could represent signals channeled from a simpler, postapocalyptic future… the paintings seem to quiver with an inner agitation. The more one looks at them, the more discomfited they appear; perhaps, through his use of repetition, Webster sets up an expectation of regularity that's continually thwarted by slight deviations."

This is Webster’s sixth show at the gallery. His work is in many museum collections including the Whitney Museum, the MFA, Houston, and most recently, the Dallas Museum of Art. His work has been seen in solo shows at ACME, Los Angeles, and Zevitas Gallery, Boston, as well as group shows at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago and Sue Scott, New York; and museums including the San Diego Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, and PS1 Contemporary, New York.

Installation View: Chuck Webster, Paintings, ZieherSmith

Installation View: Chuck Webster, Paintings, ZieherSmith

Installation View: Chuck Webster, Paintings, ZieherSmith

Installation View: Chuck Webster, Paintings, ZieherSmith


top