Paintings of Toxic Landscapes Where Politics and Aesthetics Are in Perfect Balance

Greg Lindquist,
Greg Lindquist, “Plant Bowen, Euharlee, Georgia, (Tobacco Fields)” (2017), oil, acrylic, and ash on linen, 20 1/4 x 28 1/4 in (all images courtesy the artist and Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.)

A selection of paintings by Greg Lindquist on view at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc. demonstrates how an artist may prevail over the challenges of fitting an aesthetic sensibility to the requirements of a political issue without sacrificing one for the other. It’s not easy to overcome the inevitable imbalance that develops between one’s passion for art and for a forensic purpose to which that art may be committed. In a static medium like painting, the aesthetic and the forensic will inevitably compete for that medium’s limited conceptual space. Typically, attempts to bring both art and message to maximum effectiveness end with either an aesthetically weak but effective political message (see Ai Weiwei’s Laundromat), or a visually compelling work that expresses little polemic nuance beyond commonly held postures (as in any of Robert Motherwell’s elegies to the Spanish Republic). Many artists willing to assume this most difficult of studio ambitions end up producing one or the other. And though I might hold a minority view regarding the significance of keeping the two in balance — admittedly, much political art draws accolades on the merits of its position alone — the success of an artist in keeping both art and argument vital in a single work is a rare accomplishment worthy of note.

Installation view of Greg Lindquist's Of Ash and Coal at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc. (courtesy Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.)
Installation view of Greg Lindquist’s Of Ash and Coal at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc. (courtesy Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.)

Of Ash and Coal, the title Lindquist gives to this small selection that actually represents an expansive and longitudinal project, belongs on the short list of art that manages to meld the complexity of its form with that of its argument. In addressing the issue of air and water pollution from coal-powered plant emissions, Lindquist offers images addressing environmental concerns that work on several levels beyond the project’s symbolic mixing of coal ash into the paint. The project sustains both emotional and intellectual resonance by a multiplicity of strategies, including the landscape genre itself, recognition of the sociological realities of land development, and by the artist’s coming to terms with stickier issues like an indirect complicity in the addressed vice. With a pronounced reliance on technology, presumably powered by the very facilities under scrutiny in his work, Lindquist completes an intriguing cycle of interdependent perspectives that keep art,…

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