Bucks County Herald

Kintnersville artist Todd Stone exhibits in Manhattan

LISA JO SAGOLLA



“Downtown Rising” is by Bucks County and New York City artist Todd Stone, whose post-9/11 works are on view in New York.

A native New Yorker, artist Todd Stone has been splitting his time for the last 30 years between homes in Bucks County’s Kintnersville and Manhattan, where he had a close-up view of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Just days after the attack, Stone began making “Witness,” a series of 16 paintings created on watercolor paper into which he had rubbed the ash, from the burning Twin Towers, that had seeped into his apartment through a skylight.

As downtown Manhattan later began to revive itself, Stone documented the neighborhood’s re-building as a World Trade Center artist-in-residence, making paintings from the vantage of a studio on the 48th floor of 7 WTC, then, beginning in 2014, from the 67th floor of 4 WTC.

Five of Stone’s latest “Downtown Rising” works are on display, through Dec. 15, in lobby vitrines at Conrad New York, a sumptuous hotel situated one block west of the WTC site.

Tucked away in a tiny alcove, Stone’s exhibit is easy to miss as there is no signage directing attention to it and only one of its works can be seen from outside the wee exhibit space. But that work, “Nocturne” (2017), is the most attracting of the group, all of which are watercolor and graphite on unframed, vertical paper rectangles.

Taller than they are wide, they capture both the feeling of height New York skyscrapers always evoke and the uplifting mood permeating the area’s revivification.

A gorgeous nighttime view of the shiny, new 1 WTC tower, “Nocturne” employs lavender hues – against a black background splattered with bright white specks of light – to romantic effect. Directly across from “Nocturne” hangs the contrasting “Out 4 – April 2016,” a lively daytime scene featuring cranes and construction equipment, conveying an industrial sense of building in progress.

The most complexly layered work in the exhibit is “Out 4 – Uptown” (2016), an exemplar of Stone’s masterful rendering of perspective. One could probably spend an hour taking in this work and still not absorb all of its details.

The viewer looks straight down onto the rooftops of new buildings being constructed, and also forward out into the skyline of uptown Manhattan. The brilliantly-composed work’s central focus is a vivid orange-red crane that grounds us within the multiple spatial layers, while its long extending “arms” simultaneously serve to move our eye outward in divergent directions.

Its fascinating compositional concept makes “On 3” (2017) the exhibit’s most unusual piece. In much of the painting we are looking through the scaffolding of a yet-to-be-completed skyscraper.

As only the building’s top 10 floors are filled in, the steel girders for those underneath make a grid through which appears a seascape of New York harbor, including the river, green shorelines, a boat, bridge, and what looks like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island – a compelling juxtaposition of nature and man-made materials.

Demonstrating a more conventional use of the watercolor medium, “Last Pit” (2017) is stabilized by a beautiful band of blue river water that cuts through the center of this softer daytime depiction of 1 WTC.

Until Jan. 19, Manhattan visitors can also see three of Stone’s “Witness” series watercolors in a group show on the bedrock level of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Most memorable among this trio is Stone’s metaphoric use of red, white and blue in “3:45.”

Silhouettes of feature-less buildings – under attack from both sides by black blobs – are set against burnt-red clouds punctuated by white poofs of smoke, and topped by a diminishing rim of blue sky, suggesting a terrifying erasure of America.

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