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Pow ’er up! Colorful exhibit re-imagines old images

Stand and smooch: Carroll Gardens artist Susan Bee stands beside her painting “The Kiss,” part of a series of images of couples on display at the A.I.R. Gallery.
for Brooklyn Paper
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Her paintings pack a punch!

Carroll Gardens artist Susan Bee will lay out her latest collection of work in the exhibit “Pow! New Paintings,” opening at the A.I.R. Gallery in Dumbo on March 17. Among her brightly colored oil and enamel images are a series of couples, inspired by those in black-and-white film stills, featuring two different kinds of smacks — slaps and smooches.

“The figures in the couple paintings interact with each other in love and struggle, and with tension as well as tenderness,” Bee said. “These paintings are both homage and confrontat­ion.”

Bee created new narratives for the old-time images by imagining new backgrounds, colors, compositions and characters through a mix of collage and painting.

“I work intuitively,” Bee said. “I want to enhance the found images with the addition of color, pattern and texture.”

Once Bee chooses an image and sketches it out on the canvas, she uses the basic outline of the scene as a space for improvisation.

“This process is much like the way a jazz musician riffs on a famous melody,” Bee said. “I put in the layers of oil paint gradually over time, building up to a composition that works as a figurative paintings but also as a colorful abstraction.”

Bee connects with audiences by evoking intense moods and emotional, colorful scenes.

“I hope that the viewers are stimulated and energized by the paintings,” Bee said. “To me, paintings can awaken one to the possibilities of the imagination through color and composition.”

“Pow!” is Bee’s 21st solo exhibition, and her eighth at the A.I.R. Gallery. Her first exhibit in the Dumbo space came in 1998, and she says that the gallery has provided an important space for community and experimentation.

“It is great to be part of a historically important women’s cooperative gallery that has been operating continuously since 1972 in New York City,” Bee said. “As women artists, we can support each other and take risks to show work that might not be able to be shown in a more commercial space.”

“Pow! New Paintings” by Susan Bee [A.I.R. Gallery, 155 Plymouth St. at Jay Street in Dumbo, (212) 255–6651, www.airgallery.org]. Opening reception March 17, 6–8 pm. On display through April 16, Wed–Sun, noon–6 pm. Free.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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