Shelf Life: Sydney Licht

September 23 – December 30, 2022

 

In Shelf Life, New York City-based artist Sydney Licht expands the long tradition of the still life genre with her bold, yet uncluttered paintings. Licht’s compositions offer a striking contrast to classical representations of the still life. Instead of draped tables with plump, fresh fruit carefully arranged in decorative vessels and spread amongst an array of other fine objects, Licht offers a pared-down compositional approach.  The artist’s chosen sources—mostly humble and readily-accessible items—are depicted sitting atop shallow, flat surfaces that hug the bottom of the picture plane.  A recurrent subject in the artist’s paintings are mass-produced, disposable plastic tubs that are chockfull of bite-sized pieces of fruit or candy. Far from fancy, these translucent containers and their packaged contents highlight a quest for convenience and the fast-paced nature of today’s consumer culture.  Licht poses the question, “Has the shelf life of the still life as we’ve known it reached its expiration date?”  

Licht’s paintings are also explorations in color, texture and pattern. In Still Life with Shirt, a patterned blouse, with meticulously-painted jagged stripes, hangs in front of an expanse of peachy-pink. In several featured works, stacks of quilter’s folded fat quarters and assorted washi tape—each with pronounced colors and patterns—serve as inspiration and offer dynamic slivers of interest. Lush and varied surfaces are created through the artist’s rendering of the collected objects using a palette knife loaded with viscous paint.  

By elevating often overlooked objects—from slender packages of sweetener to hand soap dispensers—Licht encourages the viewer to explore the uniqueness of manmade objects along with those found in nature. 

 

Sydney Licht painting of a brown vase and stack of fabric     Sydney Licht painting for figs in a clear plastic container

Left: SYDNEY LICHT (American, born 1954). Still Life with Fat Quarters and Brown Vase, 2022. Oil on linen. Courtesy of the artist.

Right: SYDNEY LICHT (American, born 1954). Still Life with Figs, 2020. Oil on panel. Courtesy of the artist.