New York

Joan Snyder

Paley And Lowe Gallery

Joan Snyder’s paintings at Paley and Lowe are fuller and more commanding than her earlier works. Her vocabulary is experimental and fearless: strokes on strokes, shiny on matte, drips, stains, smears, and daubs. These marks of often jarring color are grouped in perceptual configurations similar to motivic patterns in musical compositions. Although colors and textures are layered as if transparent planes have been superimposed, the new works avoid chaos because the colors function as pure chromatic touches rather than as areas or shapes.

Another reason for the clarity of these paintings is Snyder’s use of a penciled grid to provide a tough base for the loosely painted colors. Because the juxtaposition and obliqueness of the configurations often results in the merging of planes, the grid establishes the frontality of the picture plane. It also gives the viewer a format for reading the paintings by dividing the canvas into vertical segments which counterpoint the horizontal movement and amplification of elements across the surface. With the firm establishment of beginning and end, Snyder is free to create a dense center. The absence of such structure in earlier works has sometimes resulted in the congestion of elements and a loss of chromatic purity.

While Snyder’s choice of color and the bravura of application are somewhat reminiscent of Hofmann, she never uses the internal elements to reflect the edge of the canvas. There is never any feeling of design. Even in easel-sized pictures, the allover distribution of pieces tends to push the paintings beyond their limits. The most successful works in the show are those on a horizontal axis which seem to extend beyond the periphery of the viewer’s vision. In these also, more canvas has been left bare to allow greater openness for each perceptual group. Combined with greater precision in the choice and placement of elements, the colors are free to announce themselves boldly. These works—sometimes loud, flashy, and promiscuous, sometimes thoughtful and retiring—show Snyder to be a strong and personal painter.

Lizzie Borden