New York

Meryl Vladimer and Ted Stamm

Artists Space Exhibitions

Meryl Vladimer. A different kind of portraiture. Traces of presence. The masks and props of actors who have disappeared. On the wall a series of plaster-cast faces progressing from the lobe of an ear to a full profile in the center and back again on the other side. Recollection of a videotape, the head slowly turning to recognition and away. But here the action is frozen, splayed out into a. frieze, the relic of a performance. Another remnant on the floor. Chalk outlines of a figure measuring the room in body lengths. Defining a space in terms of body scale? Yet at the end a frontal face mask, pinned on the wall, stares back at the point of origin. A reemphasis on theater? The staging of an art event?

Two other pieces reinforce the sensation of drama. In one, five cylindrical plastic bags hang in a row, each containing a face mask placed at the viewer’s head height. A tableau of bodiless statues which suggests a human presence within the enclosed spaces. Sculpture encasing human action into permanence, the prop left in a play from which the actors have vanished. It is this sense of absence within implied thereness that dominates Vladimer’s corner piece. Looking through a rectangular plastic bag, one confronts one’s own face in a mirror hung on the wall. The emptiness of the sealed-off space is felt through one’s reflection as a possible presence. Here there are no masks to distance oneself from the stage. Or, is it that the mask becomes one’s own? And one finds oneself, the spectator, cast into a role, as the sculpture.

I find it difficult to write about painting. And so I stand in front of Ted Stamm’s paintings not knowing how to react. Trying to enter into a language painting has evolved for itself and to understand what it means in terms of my perception, my being. Three large canvases each consisting of a smaller triangle on the left, attached to a square. Together they work as a series, as different ways of dividing the surface and locating its possibilities of shape. To describe one. A chalk line parallels the triangle edge and continues until it meets the top of the square. Another line runs from the bottom right corner diagonally across until it hits the other line and stops just short of reaching the apex of the triangle. Three blacks of varying opacity fill in the demarcated areas, but not exactly. Sometimes they extend over more than one area or end at the actual split between the canvases, an implicit third line of division. Thus, the paint creates shapes of its own which are both determined by the drawing and vie against it. But what does all this mean? The working out of how one constructs a painting? A testing of the possibilities given within a format?

In another room a series of 13 small square paintings. On each a piece of canvas is stuck onto the upper portion of the square. This top part is painted in different textures, densities, tones, and occasionally hue from one work to the next. The bottom is left raw. The other variable is the drawing. As one progresses through the series, one sees various parts of the X defining the square’s diagonals. Each informs the next until by mental addition one constructs the complete shape in one’s mind. The constants of painting are revealed as the shape of the support and its surface. The shifts in one’s perception become contingent on the manner of painting and the internal drawing. But where does this lead one beyond the exposition of a language of structure? Is the question of painting how it defines itself in terms of the fact of what it is?

Susan Heinemann