It is with great pleasure that we welcome Curtis Steiner to Traver Gallery. With Sentient, his first solo exhibition of paintings, Steiner displays a vibrant series of biomorphic shapes rendered in watercolor and gouache; abstractions that explore connection, relation, distance, and what happens when two or more entities collide, divide, and transform.
This exhibition marks a new chapter in Steiner’s career. Long celebrated for his virtuosic curation of extraordinary art and decorative objects, along with his intricate calligraphy, fine jewelry, precise illustration, and accomplished horticulture abilities, the paintings in this solo exhibition at Traver Gallery reflect his well-honed attention to craft and a new interest in the nuance of non-representational abstraction. The recurring visual motifs recall the observable rhythmic effects of nature while alluding to more subtle and poetic observations of human relationships.
Abstract, suggestive, luminous, and rich with color, the artist pursues a challenge he has sought across other disciplines; Steiner defiantly creates soft shapes from hard lines and diffuse luminous forms using only distinct edges. For this body of work, Steiner employs an unusually exacting application of watercolor. Working without mechanical assistance other than a paintbrush, he lays down arc after arc of translucent color, each with a single, fluid movement. Every stroke requires incredible control, and with each additional layer, more skill is required to keep the fragile layer below from muddying or marring. The resulting colors are luxuriant and delicately sheer at the same time; the perfection of each line is a testament to Steiner’s technical mastery.
Acting from an impulse to elevate the work beyond the two-dimensional and infuse creativity into its presentation, Steiner creates a custom matte and frame for each painting. Drawing upon a curatorial sensitivity honed over decades of working with historical objects, he selects lush fabrics from his archive to surround each painting that resonates with its color, texture, and form. Each matte is wrapped with yarn-dyed linen, the layers of which echo the watercolor overlays. Each frame is made from perfectly preserved 19th-century silk velvet, once used to line jewelry boxes, the symbolism of which is befitting to Steiner, who wants each frame to honor and elevate its contents.
Steiner’s attention to craft and appreciation of a distilled methodology highlights the essential qualities of the material and his process. It draws our attention directly to his artistic objective: creating dynamic luminous compositions that hold our gaze and activate the space they inhabit. These new paintings are timeless in their directness, and they are enormously successful. We are thrilled to present this exhibition in our gallery and look forward to introducing you, our collectors, to Curtis Steiner’s most recent body of work.