Critics’ Picks

Rebecca Morris, Untitled (#07-17), 2017, oil on canvas, 98 x 88".


Rebecca Morris

Galerie Barbara Weiss
Kohlfurter Strasse 41/43
April 28 - June 17

Rebecca Morris’s new works are dangerously close to being feel-good kitsch, only to evade that fate by the skin of their proverbial teeth. Each of the five large paintings in this show is composed of fragmentary shapes cobbled into offhand compositions, containing repeated gestures rendered in polite hues. In sum, the pictures feel like errant glances at the world’s endless visual patterns—interlocking bricks, speckled leaves, crumbling stucco exteriors—transmuted into the psychedelic language of abstract painting.

If this seems like an undiscerning use of the medium’s mimetic function, it’s because Morris’s paintings openly court painterly genericism. Fortunately, the artist also manifests an electrified desire to trip the eye’s sense of space. In Untitled (#07-17) (all works cited, 2017), she echoes Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning, 1912, by way of an oval filled with zigzagging patches of loose patterning, though hers is set against a white ground flecked with blue. Picasso’s ghost here lends the weight of provenance to the artist’s principle endeavor: unhinging the eye from its bored habits of seeing, and using color and shape to conjure space where none exists.

While Morris’s daubed and spray-painted marks twitch under close attention, content is only ever suggested. In Untitled (#06-17), a patch of overlapping patterns is offset against gray, as if referencing the excavated layers of a worn floor. Similarly, Untitled (#05-17) finds a stenciled, Arts and Crafts–style lattice containing sprayed blotches in white, gold, and black, hovering over a scene of splattered browns. Morris’s style risks a decidedly saleable emptiness, but by infusing winsomeness with idiosyncratic decisions, it ultimately attains the charming humility of a cover singer, lending old standards a fresh lilt.