New York

Suzi Gablik

Alan Gallery

For reasons having little to do with her work, Suzi Gablik’s qualities were not illuminated at the Photographic Image exhibition recently held at the Guggenheim Museum. The delicacy and sensibility of her art was lost in the vast Wright spiral. Although four of her works were shown there (they reappear in the present exhibition) they scarcely made an impression. In the Alan Gallery, however, a room in proper scale relation to the smaller dimensions of her work, one could be struck by Gablik’s command of paint and collage and her literary turn of mind. The close reading of her paintings made possible at the gallery favored the literary effectiveness of her work. One thing is clear from the present installation: her recent collages are far better than her earlier efforts in which she was tempted by tricky and incidental spatial disruptions caused by physically punctured surfaces.

There is something deceptively familiar about Gablik’s collages. On the first scanning, this familiarity appears to work against her, until one realizes that Gablik is less interested in formal innovation than in intensity of vision. Her utilization of continuous versus discontinuous space, her compositions based on time-honored grid formations, her imagery selected through keen thematic contrasts are all aspects of a Surrealist inheritance transformed into a more personal achievement by painterly gifts, even though miniaturist in inclination, and photographic - textural contingencies which she shuffles back and forth with all the precision of a card-sharper.

In the remarkable Summer Garden, large landscape areas of tile-shaped parched earth, sheaves of wheat and soft, drifting pellets form the substratum. This in turn metamorphoses into piles of rock. An upper register of earth is covered by a forest of dry grass and jungle thicket. The innocent scene is dominated by a serpent whose undulations become intestinal tract, shown equally in cross-section, the bubbly lining of which, in its last transformation, is a mound of raspberries. The sequence recalls Focillon’s famous transformation sequence of serpent into Eastern arabesque into the staff of Aesculapius. Throughout the garden ground forces rout out hidden intruders, lovers caress in nest-like copses and the unknown dead lie sprawled and abandoned.

Robert Pincus-Witten