New York

Victoria Barr

John B. Meyer's Gallery

A number of younger painters are presently investigating acrylic as a medium. Various experiments with staining and pouring abound. Flaccid, rainbow-pretty work often results. One technique that is yielding some effective painting is that of working acrylics on wet canvas, on a wet ground, like watercolor. Watercolor is tricky enough; there are additional risks with acrylics because they react unexpectedly as the various pigments spread and mix with each other when applied in wet layers.

A problem that often occurs is compositional. For those artists who allow distinct forms to coalesce––rather than settling for undifferentiated washes or resorting to superimposed grids to organize their canvases––so much paint unpredictability makes the emergence of a unified composition difficult. Color relationships are particularly crucial also, since the interaction between the color of the ground and the forms completely governs the spatial properties of such color-focused works.

Victoria Barr, whose acrylics and small watercolors are at John Bernard Myers’ new gallery, shows considerable control of paint in individual passages of her canvases. But she is clearly struggling with the compositional difficulties mentioned above. Some of her paintings are crowded with forms lacking sufficient breathing space. Others are so dispersed that the intricate, individual shapes fall away from each other. The two most coherent paintings in the show are at compositional extremes: Gentian is a close-valued, violet-blue work with an all-over pattern of flowerlike explosions; Gloaming is arranged in a more traditional manner with an assortment of different forms.

The artist works her canvas on the floor, unstretched. She uses no brushes, instead spreading ground colors with her hands and pouring forms directly from the paint jar. She began to use acrylics in this freer manner as a result of her experience with watercolors. The watercolors in the show are much stronger than the paintings. They have no compositional problems. The artist has arrived at a simple format that gives her skill with the testy medium full rein: exquisite single forms are set in the center of open white space. The compact, sensitive shapes are filled with beautifully controlled washes of blue, violet and green. They are accomplished and lovely.

––Kasha Linville