In April 2008, Chrissy Angliker made a mistake that would go on to become the defining technique of her texturally luscious paintings. The accident—a glob of ink that was too thick and dripped down the canvas—sparked in Angliker an acquiescence to the unexpected. Striving to strike a balance between chaos and control, the Brooklyn-based Swiss American artist began dripping and dolloping paint onto the canvas—a process that expanded to spooning and smearing in her newest exhibition Crazy says the Daisy, on view now through 5 March at New York’s Massey Klein Gallery.
While learning to let go of the reins and embrace what is beyond control had already been a theme for Angliker, it became the most imperative in her latest exhibit, which she painted in 2021 as a way to process and respond to the current times. The artwork, which depicts iridescent displays of cut flowers, is simultaneously wild and calm, clear and abstract. Everywhere, swirls of vibrant acrylic hues both highlight and conceal the multitude of contrasts at play: fluorescent colors against dark shades, transparent washes next to thick globs of paint and long, elegant brushstrokes alongside messy, abrupt ones. The effect is mesmerizing.
“In the fall of 2021, I moved to a new neighborhood and started going to the farmers market in Prospect Park. I started to buy flowers every weekend and grow flowers on my stoop,” the artist tells us. “Once I had the bouquet of cut flowers in my hand, I was like, ‘OK, I get it.’ Because none of the flowers in these paintings are about flowers growing in the earth, they’re cut flowers and cut flowers still bloom. I feel like that’s an archetype. A cut flower speaks about our whole experience right now, because we’ve just been kind of chopped. It’s an exhilarating and terrifying moment and that’s what bouquets of flowers do. It’s like this gorgeous death rattle or a celebration of the cusp of life and death moving in such a beautiful way.”
The ability to conceive of and thus represent the complexities of the past couple of years didn’t come to Angliker until she was able to gain some distance from 2020. “What was going on was moving so fast, I didn’t know how to translate it. I was speechless. And because I was speechless, I was paint-less,” she continues.
In the speechlessness, in that silence, is when some truths actually start to seep in
That clarity, gained only at a distance, is a focal point in the exhibit. Up close, the visual of still flowers is obscured, lost in a haze of discordant, kaleidoscopic colors and textures. But further away, an image of flowers, replete with now-recognizable shadows and light, becomes clear. This illusive trick, as the artist explains, is vital: “We need time to mourn and freak out and be speechless. In the speechlessness, in that silence, is when some truths actually start to seep in.”
Giving herself time is also how Angliker remembered the German saying, “sag es durch die blume,” which translates to “say it through a flower”—an expression used to convey the need to deliver difficult news softly and tenderly. The exhibit’s title, Crazy says the Daisy, encompasses this saying. “There’s something so sweet and so tragic about [the title], and I think it’s important to have something be exactly both things,” says Angliker. On one hand, it neatly summarizes the current moment but, on the other hand, it has a jubilant rhyme, almost like it comes from a children’s book. This dichotomy makes it easier and more accessible to deal with the hectic and scary. In fact, the exhibit as a whole does this, speaking through flowers to talk about these tumultuous times in a way that feels safe and peaceful.
Between the heavy subject matter and chaos and control, there’s a lot for Angliker to balance. That, however, doesn’t stop her from adding more dichotomies to her paintings, which she executes with insightful coherence. The contrast between fluorescent acrylics (the first time Angliker has ever used them) is one such example. She explains, “With the fluorescents, they’re so bright. To contrast that even harder, the grunge, the mark-making, the bottom-of-the-barrel mud have to balance out that beauty. There’s a lot of polarity within the work where you have this radiance and then you have muddiness, and they need each other to actually bloom because if everything’s radiant, you don’t see it. If everything’s muddy, you don’t see it. To me, that’s another parallel to these times where things are so polarized.”
In mixing her painting method with brushstrokes, drips and plastic spoons to make large sweeping marks, Angliker constantly evolves and expands her approach as a way not to become too dependent on a formulaic routine. For the artist, painting is dialectical, a language through which she can speak. “Working in mutual collaboration to me is the most frank representation of painting reality versus me rendering something into submission,” she says. This ongoing journey of learning to live with the unanticipated and find freedom within is reflected in her vivid work.
While there has been so much to grieve and there is still so much to mourn, Crazy says the Daisy looks at the powerlessness we have in the world and makes peace with it, honoring the beauty that arrives and subsists from an absence of structure. Suffused with tenderness, inventiveness, contradictions and nuggets of wisdom that can only be gained through time, Angliker’s latest exhibition is a testament to how even in the darkest of moments there can be catharsis.
Hero image courtesy of the artist