The first painting I saw at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibition Lois Dodd: Catching the Light, perfectly set the stage for the rest of the show. Dodd’s 2010 Shadow with Easel (above) portrays the essential qualities of her works: observations of herself, the place(s) she inhabits, and the interaction between the two. The painting also shows playful brushstrokes and a bent towards the representational.
Dodd’s retrospective is a testament to her emotional observation of the world around her – often framed by the window she is gazing through. Her choice of colors and which details she includes give clues about how she feels about a certain place or, in the case of her floral works, an object. While traveling through the exhibition, I noticed that her paintings could be defined by three simple categories: nature (landscapes/rustic scenes and flowers), buildings (mostly window views looking outward or claustrophobic interiors), and people (self-portraits and nudes).
There was a definite shift in style after her earliest paintings on display from the late 50s/early 60s. At that time, abstract expressionism was the socially-accepted norm, to which Dodd’s representational painting was anathema. It is plain to see her straining to please her peers by shifting a simple landscape of cows, for instance, into a Picasso-like frolic with forms. I’m glad she stopped trying to fit in, as I found her later works far more visually appealing.
I was especially impressed with her 1975 triptych “Woods” in which skinny pines tower over the viewer; the canvas nearly touching the gallery ceiling. The pines frame a cabin in the woods, which seems to invite you down the path towards them. And that, to me, is the strength of Dodd’s works – she invites you into them with such effortless grace, that you can’t help feeling your standing just over her shoulder, seeing what she sees.
Lois Dodd: Catching the Light will be on display at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art through August 25, 2012. It will travel to the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, exhibiting in early 2013.
“First museum retrospective for Lois Dodd opens at Kansas City’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art,” ArtDaily
“Lois Dodd — a serious painter gets long-overdue retrospective,” Lincoln Journal Star