Elliott Green was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1960 and has been making paintings in New York since 1981.
After spending a year in Rome in 2012, his work developed a new sense of space and landscape, characterized by panoramic, far-reaching vistas, and geophysical features like mountains, reservoirs and skies that seem to melt impossibly into pure gesture. In his recent work, the conventions of landscape are upended to produce a visual experience of equal parts gestural energy, emotion, memory, and metaphor.
The media theorist’s story of so-called remediation is a familiar one. Each new medium is metabolized by the next—painting by photography, photography by film, film by television, all of it by the internet—and in turn, older media are reshaped in the mold of the new. But how does painting respond to photography? Television? The internet?
Elliott Green’s abstractions, smeared with shale-like layers of paint, offer a dizzying response: paintings that remediate computer graphics that remediates painting. Countless artists quote liberally from digital screens—for instance, Jack Whitten renders the home screen of an iPad as a painted abstraction in Apps for Obama, 2011—but Green, quite differently, appears to swallow the sponge, smudge, and brush tools of Photoshop, and then reconfigure them to make a real painting, the kind you can touch but are still tempted to click.
Green’s paintings mostly evoke landscapes: foaming waters, horizons blurred by fog, and ashen mountains of a rugged Brueghelian sort. There are also intestinal paths of squamous terrain that bend to the sky, warping the perspective. Comparisons could be stretched to the scraped and streaked abstractions of Gerhard Richter or Whitten, or to the intensely magnified surveillance photographs of Trevor Paglen, but Green’s paintings are distinctive. Packing medium inside of medium, painting inside of Photoshop inside of painting (an effect that holds up best when viewed at a distance), these works resonate as utterly contemporary. Each passage of Green’s brushwork smirks like a nesting doll.Zachary FineARTFORUM
What Green does is make paintings that seize the imagination. We think we are looking at a landscape, but we cannot delineate everything in it and in the end we do not care. Instead of being disappointed, this inability becomes a deep, abiding pleasure. From ravishing entanglements of foreground, middle ground, and background to discrete forms interrupting a vista with a contrasting amalgam of geology and weather, it is obvious that Green knows how to remake the conventions associated with landscape. We do not look at these paintings: we succumb to them. Their real allure is that Green never tries to fool us: he approaches resemblance but never forgets that he is using paint.
Green has channeled the landscape paintings of the early Northern Song dynasty — when painters took to the mountains to escape the turmoil of a political order uneasily shifting from aristocracy to bureaucracy — along with the fantastical landscapes of the Sienese painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti. And if he has traveled across a thousand years to two very different cultures — which I am convinced he has — his paintings do not strike me as the least bit nostalgic: he is not romanticizing the past, but has found a way to be in tune with a rapidly disappearing realm, that of nature not despoiled by humankind.
The sense of continual motion connects Green to Vincent van Gogh, which, if you think about, is pretty amazing, especially since he does not replicate the Dutchman’s well-known repertoire of abstract marks. Another important difference is that van Gogh was methodical, while Green — a thoroughly American painter — is improvisational. He does not make a painting so much as find it in the process of layering (and removing) manifold forms, furls, and striations of luscious color. We do not see the sun in Green’s skies, but light radiates throughout.John YauHYPERALLERGIC
Mr. Green unveils the tumultuous baroque landscapes that have evolved from the painterly cartoon figures that once inhabited his canvases. They are full of geological action and meteorological exuberance. Mountains jut, glaciers pour into the sea, tectonic plates collide, hills roll, lava burns. (Above, “Human Nature,” an oil-on-linen painting from this year.) And throughout, all kinds of brushes and tools enable an entire palette’s worth of colors to flow, stutter, twist, suffuse and fold, while freehand additions à la de Kooning — and Mr. Green’s earlier work, as well — occasionally flit about. Painters of the American West like Thomas Moran are updated. Extreme artifice prevails with photography and animation lurking just offstage. And the subterranean subtext rears its ugly head: human nature’s ignorant abuse of nature nature.Roberta SmithNEW YORK TIMES
«Elliott Green’s paintings appear to be in continuous motion, the way animals, plants, and ultimately rocks and mountains are in continuous motion, even when our human vision fails to apprehend it. Placing great thick gestures of paint amid minute intricacies and vice versa, his compositions demonstrate the movement of the universe on both the macro and the micro scales. They might seem analogous to the huge, all-but-abstract photographs of Andreas Gursky or Edward Burtynsky (whose high-resolution digital work similarly presents the eye with sights it can’t otherwise see), but Green’s paintings are first and last human documents, their rhythms legible to the pulse and not above trying to accelerate it. »
A painting like Green’s Expander—which seems to me a bold series of formal departures, suggesting the unceasing incursions of time’s fourth dimension into what we know as the first three and thereby straining an identity’s need for coherence, while refusing such readings in just the polyvalent way that, say, Emily Dickinson’s “My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun - ” resists paraphrase—a painting like Expander operates like an expander on the mind, inserting thoughts (see my foregoing m-dashes) while earlier thoughts are still forming. The result is that Expander is a genuinely moving experience. Some durable alloy of gentleness and power emanates from it; the encounter in the top half between the strip of grey-to-silver and the conical form of pale aquamarine generates its own weather, as if a front of low pressure had rolled in and precipitation resulted between viewer and canvas. That a painting so meticulously made should prove so emotional is a paradox that sustains all of Green’s work.Jana PrikrylTHE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
Elliott Green’s recent paintings of infinite landscapes—or rather, mindscapes—was as visually stunning as it was intellectually rewarding. Characteristic of the new work, the large painting Mammatus shows what appears to be a vast mountain range, like the high Himalayas, with snowy peaks visible in the far distance, and icy rivers in the foreground.
Rather than depicting any real mountains, however, Green’s rocky vista seems emblematic of anything insurmountable or unapproachable. A surrealist touch in the painting, in terms of technique as well a imagery, corresponds to certain works by Max Ernst. In Green’s composition, a large, rainbow-colored horizontal band in the upper left, like a single bravura brushstroke, is a purely abstract device that breaks the illusion of the infinite landscape, reminding the viewer that this, after all, is just paint-on-canvas. It also underscores the fact that while the visual sensation of the painting may be appreciated by all viewers, the mental and physical challenges of its creation were the artist’s alone.David EbonyTop Ten New York Gallery Shows of 2016 in ARTNET News
What’s unique about Green’s paintings is how they merge views of the external world with the internal world, as if simulating the artist’s psyche: landscape as free-association; topology rendered through id.
But while their form may at first appear untrammeled, Green, an auto-didact who has been painting for decades, has an innate sense of composition. It might take the viewer’s eye a minute to adjust to the unexpected juxtaposition of various not-unfamiliar shapes. But each of these unsettling environments is a balancing act: the deft juggling of elements that emulate recognizable shapes in nature, reconfigured to create something totally new, but nonetheless holistic.Phoebe HobanRIOT MATERIAL
Fellowships, Grants & Residencies
BAU Institute, Cassis, France
Jules Guerin Rome Prize at the American Academy in Rome
Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant
The Peter S. Reed Foundation Grant
Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Grant
John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship
MacDowell Colony Residency
Harper’s Magazine. May 2019.
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Litmanen, Pirita. REVS magazine No. 18, Spring/Summer, 2017
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Exhibition catalog, Human Nature, Pierogi, New York. Essay by Jana Prikryl. February 2017 [View PDF]
Caldwell, Luisa; Freedman, Matt. In retrospect: Post-truth with David Brody and Elliot Green, Two Coats of Paint, February 6, 2017
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Worth, Alexi. “Elliott Green’s Family Values”, + 8 reproductions; The Sienese Shredder #3, 2009
Hunt, Helen (Director). Then She Found Me (film), paintings featured, April 2008
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Goings On About Town, “Elliott Green”, (reproduction) The New Yorker, May 15, 2000
“Cyberdrawings”, Art On Paper, January 15, 2000
Catalog, 26 American Artists, Campo & Campo, Belgium, October 1999
Wolff, Rebecca (Editor). “Gravity & Float”, magazine cover and seven reproductions; Fence, Spring 1998
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Artist project, Interview, February 1998
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Robinson, Walter; H-O, Paul. Gallery Beat (television), January 1998
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Contemporary Art Series #8, Elliott Green (exhibition catalog), Krannert Museum, April 1996
“Persistence of Pagan Myth in Modern Imagination” The New York Times, December 29, 1995
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New Observations (New York), No. 105. March-April 1995
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“Desire”, Visionaire, Number 12, Fall 1994
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