Critics’ Picks

View of “Sarah Crowner: Weeds,” 2018.

View of “Sarah Crowner: Weeds,” 2018.

New York

Sarah Crowner

Casey Kaplan
121 West 27th Street
February 26–April 21, 2018

Sarah Crowner’s acrylic-on-canvas paintings have been put through the wringer. Her abstract imagery, made up of multicolored semicircles, is cut up, stretched, restretched, and sewn together. Visitors can step up and down on low wooden platforms to “enter” the paintings, turning the experience into a performative event. These stages are pieces of a puzzle, as they formally mimic the rounded contours in her paintings.

Sometimes her brushwork is visible, while other times it is totally flat, hiding aspects of the artist’s decision-making process. Her works’ seams quietly reveal that certain passages are made up of more than one section of canvas, which complicates their formal purity. In Opening Blues, 2018, for instance, the sewn shapes on the top half of the piece seem to interact with one another harmoniously, while the bottom half feels more cacophonous. The work is horizontally bisected, and its two regions—despite being composed of similar pinks, blues, and raw-canvas umbers—function as distinct entities.

This show, “Weeds,” is, like the titular plant, a stubborn thing. Though the modernist formalism the artist explores is “pleasant” in the most obvious of ways, it is also deceptive. The great deal of work that goes into the construction of her images—with Frankenstinian suturing—upsets any easy read. Her brilliant palette and elegant compositions conceal a weirder kind of thinking: one where the geometric and airy cleanliness of an Ellsworth Kelly or a Lorser Feitelson doesn’t die but gets sliced up, rearranged, and made into something oddly corporeal.