- Marley Freeman
I first met Marley Freeman when we both participated in a group exhibition at MurrayGuy gallery in 2016. I was immediately seduced by her paintings, succumbing to the intellectual challenge they proposed as well as the visual joy I experienced. I remember Speechless in 2018 at MBnb in Harlem where Janice Guy presented a suite of her paintings, thoughts-forms installed salon style; true to the exhibition’s title, these works offered a new melody of affections. In her exhibition at Karma in 2019 her work continued to astonish us.
There are many possible explanations for the success of the multi-hued provocations that are Marley Freeman’s oil and acrylic paintings. A brilliant and imaginative colorist, and a master in the art of glazing, she surrenders to fate, knowing “Painting” itself will give her the answers that she is looking for. As an absolute submission to the eternal art of painting, this enamored artist patiently remains open to the demands of the work itself. What might appear to be a hasty execution, due to its freshness, is the result of a thoughtful meditation. She often returns to the work at intervals of days, weeks, and even months until she is able to give it the final brushstroke. Chance meets control; speed relies on the artist’s creative absorption.
The results are small gems that overwhelm us with their fierce vitality. Delicate and enigmatic, her paintings emerge as subjective landscapes emotionally close to Abstract Expressionism; they even possess something of a jazz swing, which moves us to think that Freeman is also pursuing an inquiry into the spiritual. She welcomes the challenge of jumping into the abyss, unprotected, knowing she is powerful when in sync with the beat of her prodigious intuition. This aspect of Freeman’s process shelters and invigorates her and as an ancient and experienced medium, she lets herself be guided. She resists and succeeds: the end is always the light.
It may be that this balance of color and shapes, so skillfully achieved in her paintings, is the result of having grown up among the antique and vintage colorful fabrics in which her father traded. On several occasions, she has gone even further in accepting that legacy by combining her paintings exhibited in the galleries alongside sculptures draped with pieces in her family collection. In these installations, cause and effect are intimately united, generating a cosmology of concepts where the paintings become like astral bodies and the brocades, like paintings: a symbolic knot of ideas carrying us to that place that has no name -almost utopian.
For this project at Travesía Cuatro, Marley has been inspired by “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The vulnerability of the sailor in the poem, his guilt for having killed the albatross, and his final redemption, have inspired her to associate those human feelings of uncertainty to the times of trauma and loss in which we are living today, intentionally transmitting a longing for salvation into her paintings. The beauty of the poem overwhelms us in its tragic emotion intertwined with moments of great imagination implicit in Romanticism; but it also moves us through passages filled with colors, winds, and the flights of birds, as if in the midst of that tragic beat, color, and thrill for life were bringing uplifting news. This mood is echoed in the crimsons, cobalts, magentas, emeralds and ochres with which Marley delights us in her paintings and that together with the titles taken from passages in the poem, complete this new project. Lukas Geronimas has made four beautiful frames in wood: they add another layer of meaning to her work, this time in a suggestive modernist key. The chromatic range of Freeman’s palette combined with generous spacing on the gallery walls, convey, once again, that her output -in its silent tenderness- possesses a timeless quality.
Elena del Rivero
New York, April 2021