“Transcending Nature: Paintings by Eric Aho” runs through Sept. 9 at the Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St., Manchester, N.H. Museum hours: Monday, Wednesday-Friday, Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about Aho, visit his website.
Originally published in The Commons issue #164 (Wednesday, August 8, 2012).
SAXTONS RIVER—Back in April, I was wandering around the Armory show in New York City, an event that has become a huge and important showcase for cutting-edge art from all over the world.
A large abstract painting caught my attention among all the hundreds, maybe thousands, of self-conscious searches for something new and fresh. Among art of heightened realism in the drawing of a frying pan, brightly striped canvases, or shiny chrome objects that seek to mirror the razzamatazz of our glitzy, LCD-lit world, here was artwork by someone who simply loved paint and painting.
Now that was fresh!
The painting, “Daybreak,” at 92 inches by 80 inches — almost 52 square feet — made quite an impression. Amid the crush and chaos of the Armory, it was a breath of fresh air.
I was familiar with Eric Aho’s gorgeous, evocative landscapes, and the powerful ice paintings. But I was completely surprised by the aesthetics of this painting, a true leap into the creative abyss.
Aho has his first survey show — meaning not just new work, but a show that gives a perspective of work over time — at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, N.H. this summer, through Sept. 8. It is not to be missed.
It turns out “Daybreak” is not so much a leap into the abyss as a graceful dive into the deep end of waters Aho has been swimming in for decades.
Some people might still prefer the landscapes, and there are some beauties here, such as “French King,” a large painting of a sweeping view of the Connecticut River valley, that provide an impressive portal into the show.
* * *
I visited Eric Aho’s studio in Saxtons River shortly after the show opened. Situated in an enclave of old brick buildings, once the campus of a private school, Aho works in the school’s old, spacious gymnasium building, whose high-arched windows allow the sun to pour through.
Paintings, those few still in the studio, are propped against the wall. No easel in sight. Tubes and small bowls of mixed oil paints are everywhere.
Aho showed me what, at present, constrains the size of his large work: the only way to get a painting out is through “the toaster,” a floor-to-ceiling slot in the wall to slide paintings through sideways. The artwork is then maneuvered through a garage-type door leading out of an adjoining space.
None of the landscapes, which were his central focus for decades, are around. The place is completely given over to the new work.
Yet nature is clearly a constant touchstone.
Aho talks about still going outdoors to do plein air painting, but notes, chuckling, that these excursions do not look like the usual outdoor painter’s: No neat painting box (or messy one, for that matter) for him.
He goes out in his truck, and basically carries his studio with him: buckets of brushes, cans and bowls of paint, some left over from previous paintings.
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