Carmen Neely, sometimes a painting is a prayer

Saturday, May 27 – Jul 8, 2023

437 N. Paulina St
Chicago, IL 60622

Carmen Neely (b. 1987 in Charlotte, North Carolina; lives and works in Chicago) trades in semantics. For Neely, the difference between two types of line is not so much a precious commitment to formal queries that lead nowhere outside of the canvas; rather these marks are an earnest stab at solving real problems in expressing one’s own history and the histories that are passed through us by the act of mark making.  

Neely’s canvases are surfaces taught with conflict, line, color and language. The marks ricochet and collide off one another, their meanings always affected by their proximity to other gestures. In Neely’s paintings, memory, speech, and feeling are not necessarily linear or discrete expressions and experiences but are rather codependent on a series of contexts that produce, interrupt and re-form them over time. 

Her paintings give a feeling of catharsis, bursting with colorful and calligraphic strokes on delicate and soft backgrounds. The tableaus propose the peace that comes through an ongoing process of renegotiation and reiteration. If each line holds expressions of identity, values, and memory passed through generations of family and friendships, Neely’s consistent modulation of gesture and color in her own vernacular suggest the mutability and evolution of these values over time and geography. The process is about intricacies of interpretation with the resulting works expressing a methodological approach to language that remainsvulnerable to Neely’s own ongoing confrontation with selfhood.