The Fourth Wall


George Lawson

Wappinger Creek

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Where from afar they read as what they appear to be, up close they take on the character of buzzing energy fields with an emotional tenor that varies from one work to the next... David M. Roth, Square Cylinder

The Fourth Wall is pleased to present a solo show of new paintings by George Lawson. A familiar name in the Bay Area, Lawson had been a well established painter for decades when, in 2008, he decided to open a gallery. I thought of it as hopping to the other side of the desk... I never intended to quit [painting] altogether, but the gallery took on a life of its own and ended up consuming my every minute. For the next twelve years, the George Lawson gallery was a major force in the art community, mounting consistently powerful shows with a roster of brilliant painters.

When, in March 2020, Covid forced the program to close, Lawson decided to return to painting. Sara and I managed an improvised move in the midst of the pandemic across country to the Hudson Valley. After spending a month cleaning up a barn on a creek in a wooded area east of the River outside the town of Rhinebeck, I started painting again. Like riding a bike. I just seemed to pick up where I left off, although showing the work of other artists over the years had broadened my scope and my understanding of the potential of the medium. The fresh environment in rural New York rivets my attention. Everything is so different from California: the weather, the animals, the trees, and the light. My windows look down on Wappinger Creek, named after the original inhabitants, an Algonquin-speaking tribe closely related to the Mohicans. There is a sense of history here that dates to the early colonization of the 1600s, but the creek carries ghosts that are older still.

Painter George Lawson has been an active participant in the Bay Are art world since the mid 1970s. He won the SFMOMA SECA award when he was 30 and showed with several veteran San Francisco dealers over the years including Cheryl Haines, Patricia Sweetow, and Kim Eagles-Smith, along with galleries in New York, Los Angeles and Germany. In 2008, he set painting aside to run his own eponymous gallery until the pandemic forced its closure in March of 2020. Lawson subsequently moved to New York’s Hudson Valley and returned to painting, producing a body of work nurtured by the wooded environment. The exhibition title, Wappinger Creek, refers to the creek that runs by his barn studio. The Wappinger, an Algonquin-speaking tribe closely related to the Mohicans, were the original inhabitants of what is now Dutchess County.

George Lawson Gallery had a program that emphasized painting’s physicality, and Lawson’s own painting continues this focus, grounded in paint’s ability to convey content directly through its own corporeal properties. There is an art to wrestling syntax and meaning out of painting when one conceives of it as predominately a plastic and malleable medium. This discipline requires a balance of subjective association with structural form, but also a reckoning with one’s place in the world, and a sense of discovery that resists fraud. Using a bifurcating motif that looks like nothing more than tree branches, Lawson seems to cover this spectrum. On the one hand these works are openly abstract, while readily telling the stories we project into them, perhaps recalling the angst and isolation of the pandemic, or articulating broader themes such as resilience and rebirth. This is painting at its most fundamental. The image is in the paint.