Critics’ Picks

  • Irene Kopelman

    Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art
    Witte de Withstraat 50
    May 6 - August 26

    Irene Kopelman’s latest exhibition is a compilation of works created between 2012 and 2016, all of which poetically underline yet systematically extrapolate the potential of the artist as the registrar of our diminishing natural world. Here, the artist’s role as both the objective witness and the lyrical interpreter on how to comprehend nature as a system unfolds on a metaphysical level.

    “Tree Lines”—four large abstract paintings made in 2015—is the result of a long stay in and around the Swiss town of Davos. During this period of research, Kopelman kept daily field notes on her reading of the landscape around her: the passageways made by human intervention, the tree line and the bare, mountainous terrain, the patterned effects of avalanches, the humidity, the different types of alpine trees. All of these elements find their way into her paintings, realized with bravery in regard to the level of abstraction, for example, in how she works the paint while it is wet and uses only one shade of mossy green on canvases left mostly white. Through painterly abstraction, “Tree Lines” evokes the mindset of a society that too often abstracts the natural world and its threats.

    For a more literal interpretation of the natural languages Kopelman seeks out, see Puzzle Piece, 2012, an exact ceramic replica of the crackled surface of Hawaii’s volcanic landscape. Consisting of more than a thousand pieces neatly fitting together and precisely installed as a large square on the gallery’s floor, Puzzle Piece is meant to actually bring nature—or its earthenware representative—into the gallery space. Flanking this central work are three large oil abstractions—“77 Colors of a Volcanic Landscape,” 2016—that were made after a second visit to Hawaii. In these, Kopelman trades sculptural facsimile for awed chaos, as if to say that it’s not exactly nature but its sense of rediscovery that must be remembered.