Critics’ Picks

On a Clear Day, 2004.

On a Clear Day, 2004.

New York

Emily Sartor

Massimo Audiello
526 West 26th Street, Suite 519
March 3–April 30, 2005

In a nod to mid-nineteenth-century maritime painting, Emily Sartor’s depiction of the explosion of a ship amid darkly roiling waves provides an apt and tantalizing opening for the Louisiana native’s Chelsea premiere. The fine spatter of brilliant orange and bleached yellow that indicates the fierce blast is set at a safe distance from the viewer’s vantage, transforming carnage into an occasion for the picturesque. Sartor’s insouciance is most manifest in Blue Skies (all works 2004), which revels in cascading, exuberantly colorful parachutes that draw the eye away from rising, inky puffs of battle smoke. The scene turns into an exotic visual pun as two blue “skies” become apparent, one at the top and one at the bottom of the painting, embracing a narrow strip of tan land. The drift of parachutes and smoke seems to hover in suspension between them, a motionlessness that is literalized by the measured tempo of many of her compositions. Soft Landing, for instance, is a luxuriously slow painting: The leisurely deflation of two striped parachutes in a crisply barren landscape give the impression of melting ice-cream cones on a scorching summer day. On a Clear Day also depicts languorous devastation, though in this case it resembles the environmental ravages wrought by burning Kuwaiti oil wells. The wide, curving plumes of clouds and colored smoke evoke Edvard Munch’s swirling, fiery backgrounds, not to mention his anxious monition of an “infinite scream passing through nature.”