New York

Sylvia Mangold

Fischbach Gallery Uptown

The fitting of representational subject matter into an abstract mode of thinking is more successfully resolved in Sylvia Mangold’s new paintings. As in her previous works, Mangold objectively renders the recession of hardwood floors inclined upward onto the vertical picture plane. What is different is her positioning of an oak-framed mirror where the floor meets the wall; a mirror which reflects the space in front of the painting and ostensibly behind the viewer. The result is a disorienting transgression of painting’s illusionistic space into real space. There is a sensation of actual presence within the depicted room. Yet this feeling is more a conceptual awareness of space than a trompe l’oeil deception. Mangold makes one question how one defines space, how one orders the perceptual data given in the sensory experience. Her paintings provide visual clues to be deciphered—the reading of perspective, the memory of other views suggested by the mirror. She posits that one doesn’t objectively perceive, but instead mentally interprets space.

This thought-provoking quality of Mangold’s work is reinforced by the austerity of her empty rooms which, combined with the linear clarity of the forms, insists on the abstract idiom of painting. The mirror is a traditional device for insisting on the illusionism of painting as distinct from physical reality. Because Mangold generally presents a frontal view of the mirror, its edges relate directly to the painting’s edges. Consequently one’s knowledge of the mirror’s flatness and its objecthood is transferred to a recognition of the painting as a flat object with its own literal reality. One realizes that the painting itself is a construct, an ordered system of information. The quiet poetry of the sunlight functions as a further inducement to contemplation. Mangold seems to have found a means of making objective representation a credible option for painting.

––Susan Heinemann