New York

Marcia Hafif

Sonnabend Gallery

Marcia Hafif covers various surfaces: small and large wood panels, stretched canvases which reach floor to ceiling or wall to wall, and, finally, the wall itself. She covers these surfaces with different substances of various colors: vermilion encaustic, grayed cobalt blue oil paint, yellow egg tempera, ocher casein. The paint goes on in tiny, incessant strokes, one after the other in strict sequence, down or across each surface. The result is a thin single layer. Each point on the surface remains a discrete unit, the outcome of an individual gesture and point in time. Visually, I can sometimes appreciate Hafif’s results: the ocher casein directly on an entire long wall of the gallery is particularly beautiful, a sort of monochrome impressionism. The vermilion encaustic is thick enough for its wood panels, but the other surfaces merely look blank and unfinished, insufficiently coated with material.

Hafif reduces the act of painting to a simple, repeated gesture, mundane, devoid of creative implications. Painting becomes a casual and arbitrary event. And yet the time and concentration required to cover these surfaces makes them tedious. Instead of demystifying her actions, Hafif gives them a preciousness which seems more. artificial than the one she seeks to avoid. She makes these surfaces precious in terms of mindless time-consuming labor, the same thing that makes photo-Realism precious to some people, and this seems at odds with Hafif’s intentions.

Roberta Smith