Alexandria Tarver

We meet artist Alexandria Tarver to discuss her current solo exhibition at Deli Gallery, New York. Tarver recontextualizes the traditional floral motif into a space between memory, idealization, and presence.

Her process begins on a ritualistic evening walk around New York City. For Tarver, the night is a dynamic time oscillating between rest, dreams, and frenzy, often unleashing subconscious desires restrained during the day. It's a period when trouble happens, stars become visible, and the city, never at rest, mirrors the cycle akin to death. The variability of the city's nighttime sky, influenced by observation points, weather, and proximity to building lights, becomes a rich palette of colors, each night unique.

On these walks the artist identifies potential subjects, often floral clusters, in an action akin to foraging. Tarver photographs the subject and then creates a preliminary composition in pencil on paper. The subject is finally rendered in oil on panel, employing techniques from various historical movements including post-impressionism, New England mid-century representationalism, and gestural abstraction. The primary layer, accompanied by lapis and cerulean blue ground, captures the electric color of twilight. The timeline varies, with some paintings taking weeks or even months. The vibrant blue of twilight oscillates against the flesh-tones of the central flower form—this blue sometimes deepening, sometimes shifting into an evening haze, sometimes sinking into purple-black depth, a depth halted by the ever-present electric glow of the skyline.

Tarver finds profound meaning in the repetition and variations on a theme. As she explores the possibilities of painting, she grapples with the act of painting and its evolution over time and practice. The disciplined dedication to a subject or landscape, evident in artists like Maureen Gallace, Vija Celmins, and Jim Dine, is mirrored in Tarver's formal repetition, which becomes a grounding force that reflects the rhythm of day-to-day existence.

In the paintings, flowers and markings are situated as acting figures within the particular, ever-variable, and intensely observed color field of the night sky as viewed from the concrete grounds of the city. Much like Ellsworth Kelly's plant drawings served as a device for him, the plant in Tarver's works acts as a stand-in, offering a guiding framework for her hand and a pathway to reflect on the long nights she has experienced. During a vulnerable period around 2013 and 2014, marked by the sickness and imminent mortality of Tarver's father, the practice of looking at flowers and creating paintings became a place of solace. This loyalty endures, providing a grounding force and a way to navigate through fear, pain, and sorrow.

Alexandria Tarver (b. 1989) received a BFA from New York University in 2011. Recently her work has been included in group exhibitions at GRIMM Gallery, London (2023), Marinaro Gallery, NY (2023), Public Gallery, London (2022), UncleBrother, NY (2021), Arsenal Gallery, NY (2019), Et. Al. etc., San Francisco (2017), Danziger Gallery, NY (2016). Tarver also organized group shows Sentimental at Fitness Center for the Arts & Tactics in Brooklyn (2013) and #1 at The Hose in Brooklyn (2013). Tarver had her first solo exhibition with Deli Gallery in 2015. She lives and works in New York City.

Follow @AlexandriaTarver on Instagram and @DeliGallery.


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