Jennifer Kabat

  • Rose English, Study for a Divertissement: Jo and Porcelain Cache-Sexe, 1973, C-print, 10 1⁄4 × 7 7⁄8".

    Rose English

    A few years ago, I saw images of Rose English’s Quadrille, 1975, and became obsessed with her women wearing horsehair tails and footwear made with real horse hooves and doing dressage in the British countryside. The performance was outside my understanding of that era’s feminist sensibility. It wasn’t violent, durational, or angry but looked like some kind of fairy tale, something out of Angela Carter.

    “Rose English: Form, Feminisms, Femininities” laid out the artist’s early interest in sexuality and ballet and her later turn to language, theatricality, and existential humor. Untitled Miss O’Murphy


    ROCHELLE FEINSTEIN’S paintings pack punches and punch lines, yet the jokes are so bleak they can be hard to laugh at. The ebullient, Helen Frankenthaler-esque In Anticipation of Women’s History Month, 2013, may at first suggest earnest excitement about the commemoration of women’s achievements that occurs every March. Round pin-back buttons—variously displaying a tiny curtsying Minnie Mouse and a suffragette—are stuck into the colorful stained canvas. Yet a glittering black heart at the painting’s center gives the game away: The work is, in fact, acidly ironic and tinged with melancholy, meant to underscore the patriarchal system that deems “women’s history”—the contributions of more than 50 percent of the human population—as a category distinct from “history” itself.Feinstein’s work is funny, feminist, and furious. As a painter coming of age in the 1980s, she struggled to find her way with a medium long out of fashion, but she persisted, using painting to short-circuit masculine ideologies. Take Flag, 1993, a checked dish towel offered as an answer to Jasper Johns, or 1994’s El Bronco, for which Feinstein created white tread marks on a blue linen support, marrying the LA freeway of the O. J. Simpson chase to the Barnett Newman zip.Feinstein subordinates form to process. She shifts freely among painterly and prosaic techniques, incorporating everything from drop shadows to drips, stains, and zips, to everyday materials and stray, stranded language. This approach is in line with many younger painters’ magpie strategies—unsurprising, given that for years Feinstein was the head of Yale’s graduate painting program. She deploys pop-culture ciphers as a means of puzzling out their deeper meanings and restages older works in new constellations. “The Estate of Rochelle F.,” 2009–10, is a series of thirteen paintings Feinstein recycled and remade from her own work as well as from presents from other artists, such as a birthday gift from Rachel Harrison. Created during the financial crisis, “The Estate” is a recessionary take on the Rauschenberg Combine: a meditation on value and a way for Feinstein to probe her own worth as a woman artist.After touring Europe, her survey “Image of an Image” finally comes home to New York’s Bronx Museum of the Arts, and so, too, does Feinstein, who grew up nearby.—Jennifer Kabat

    I WAS BORN IN THE BRONX at Fitch Sanitarium, which no longer exists. My parents lived on Featherbed Lane, and years ago their building collapsed. It no longer exists. My stepmother taught at a junior high on Sheridan Avenue. That school no longer exists. My father, a Golden Gloves boxer, lived with my stepmother in an apartment building on Grandview Place at 167th Street. It no longer exists either. Their synagogue closed, and was converted into the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Soon, I, too, will no longer be around. That’s the point of a retrospective. The show will include parts of my 2009–10