New York

Carol Haerer

Max Hutchinson Gallery

Carol Haerer, on the other hand, remains within a narrow range of pastel colors, seemingly the colors that white contains. In her paintings at the Max Hutchinson Gallery, she has covered bright hues with layers of transparent white until the colors barely glimmer through the surface. The effect is like trying to readjust one’s vision to indoor light after being outside in the sun, for it takes a long time for the paintings to reveal themselves. Because there are so few variations within, the exact sizes and shapes of the paintings assume primary importance. The smaller paintings, unable to generate any presence, are experienced as pretty objects. Only the canvases large enough to expand beyond their edges are able to create a buoyant atmosphere of light and space.

The two most successful paintings in the show, Tantran and Arc, are the largest, on respectively vertical and horizontal axes. In them, not only size but the internal structure of the hues is significant. The centers, at eye level, are the lightest areas of the paintings and seem to expand vertiginously inward. The darkest hues form almost invisible chevrons away from these areas, pushing the corners out until they dissolve like Tiepolo clouds or apotheoses. The failure of most of the works in the show results from their inability to transform the hues into such experiences. Since there is then an even distribution of color spots over the canvas, the effect is that of polished technique, mottled like frostbitten Boucher skin. In these paintings also, the need to create some relation to the support has compelled Haerer to leave narrow bands around the edges in the manner of Olitski. This gesture, however, seems superficial and it has only been in the precisely felt balance between internal articulation and external shape of paintings like Tantran and Arc that Haerer escapes prettiness and style.

Lizzie Borden