New York

Racelle Strick

55 Mercer Gallery

In discussing Martin’s drawings, I indicated that her grids were woven rather than built. This distinction is perhaps clarified by an examination of Racelle Strick’s work, which emphasizes the additive construction of painting. Looking at Strick’s paintings shown at 55 Mercer, one is always aware of the process of making; the whole image constantly refers back to the systematic structuring of its parts. In 5 Inch Square from Bottom Center Out, the square module, consisting of narrow horizontal bands of pale blue acrylic, is repeated unit after unit from the bottom center, in opposite directions, around the edges until the two sequences almost meet. This pattern is repeated consecutively within the canvas until no further units are possible without going over the previous series of squares. At the top, the black canvas ground articulates a ziggurat shape left over by the halting of the building process in each successive sequence. The definiteness of this black shape sets up a figure on ground reading which conflicts somewhat with one’s interpretation of a gradual, progressive construction. However, because the black of the image is continuous with the black ground seen between the bands of the units, one recognizes that its shape is a result of facture rather than a given beforehand. It is important to note that Strick’s work is never rigidly ordered. A blurred irregularity in the horizontal bands is caused by letting the wet paint run underneath the tape used for the lines’ construction. In addition, the spacing between the units varies: some of the units slightly overlap, others interlock, while others remain distinctly separate. These differences indicate that, while the artist starts with a premise stipulating the rules of construction, the painting itself involves a physical articulation of that formula. The visual phenomenon is a result of growth, defining itself in the making, rather than being a verbatim translation of an a priori concept.

This idea of architectural growth is clearest in Spiral Starting from Center and 10, 5 and 2 1/4 Inch Squares. Here the simple outlining of the modular squares asserts their function as units as opposed to decorative patterns. These units spiral out from the center to the edges in a square progression which echoes the shape of the canvas support. Again slight variations in the positioning of the units prevent the painting from becoming a mere demonstration of a fixed order. Although Strick’s depicted squares refer to the literal square of the format, the emphasis is not on the painting as object per se. Instead Strick postulates that the painting is the result of a physical construction of an internally consistent order, that its being is in its making.

––Susan Heinemann