Critics’ Picks

View of “Ruth Root,” 2015.

View of “Ruth Root,” 2015.

New York

Ruth Root

Andrew Kreps Gallery
22 Cortland Alley
June 25–August 14, 2015

Ruth Root’s Untitled, 2014–15, is a slightly larger-than-life, irregularly shaped canvas, which at seven feet high both relates to and dwarfs the average viewer. Big Top–like striped diagonals at the base and then flotsam and jetsam patternmaking at the top define its shape, which is primarily a parallelogram intersecting a rectangle. Suspended by grommets, the painting reveals sections of the gallery wall particularly when small textile rectangles nestle into a larger identical section of fabric. Never quite aligning, the collage of shapes affirms an intrinsic disjointed structure. Defying the anthropomorphism of sculpture, the illusionism of painting, and the object-hood of similarly scaled Minimalist outputs, its imbalance reinforces a tentative relationship to the body.

Root designs her textiles capturing a repetitive mode of patternmaking evocative of the mass-produced and ubiquitous. Multitudinous sources for her patterns can be noted: 1940s feed sack dresses, candy wrappers, 1980s Memphis furniture that has been flattened out against the wall. Familiar and yet also abstruse patterns pervade: Is that a golf ball floating beside a triangular yellow and orange sun?

Untitled is one of many unnamed works, all exceedingly flat explorations of color, line, and printed patterns. Because of the assymmetry of her canvases, Root is commonly compared to Frank Stella; however, here and in her earlier work, she echoes the lesser-known output of Leo Valledor. In contradistinction with both of these artists, she joins her painted sections to wallpaper-like selections of fabrics. The segmentation between paint and fabric is pronounced, but both areas carry all-over ornamentation. Remarkably, with pattern rather than volume, Root wittily explores the possibility of painting’s integration in and detachment from architecture, resulting in an alluringly capacious scopic field for the viewer.