New York

Pat Steir

Paley And Lowe

Pat Steir’s work at Paley and Lowe makes use of both explicit and suggestive metaphor. The paintings, on canvas lined like graph paper, contain pictures of birds, flowers, landscapes, charts, and notations of ideas and feelings. The images suggest that the paintings may be interpreted as metaphors both for states of consciousness and states within nature. While Steir’s work demonstrates a lyrical sensibility, some of her images tend toward the illustrative and artsy. The execution of the paintings seems a little awkward for the lines cease to differentiate between descriptive functions. The images seem schematic though not distilled and rigidified enough to be totemic representations. Since the paintings look somewhat labored, the written notations appear to be practiced rather than random wanderings of consciousness. Since the delicacy of touch in the drawings is in keeping with the scale of the work, these images seem more closely observed.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Steir’s work is the richness of content. Through the juxtaposition of personal feelings and the more objective investigation of the world, the paintings show the relationship between personal and collective histories. Steir’s work also mirrors the activity of making art. For example, she draws lines and labels “lines” as if the hand creates and then articulates what it has discovered. While she seems to have been influenced by the graphs of Agnes Martin and the drippy strokes of Joan Snyder or Joan Mitchell, her work does not seem overly derivative. She uses these conventions as a setting for imagery rather than strictly for the expressive power of the conventions themselves.

Lizzie Borden