New York

Edda Renouf

Julian Pretto

An incident is something out of the ordinary. Edda Renouf creates incident in the archetypal ordinariness and regularity of the weave of cotton duck by removing every tenth (or so) woof thread and then stretching and “lacquering” the canvas to give her activity a formal meaning and get it considered as painting.

As a Minimalist strategy her work is flawless. She does almost nothing to the materials, just alters them slightly to call attention to their nature. She enables us to see how the woof will bow out at the ends of her long narrow pieces when the canvas shrinks because of the gray acrylic glaze she applies after stretching. The pictures are as cool and smart as any, but their slightly smug presence as works correctly solved like algebra problems (“a,” materials; plus or minus “b,” artist’s critical acumen; equals “c,” art) was slightly irritating. If painting is to remain an interesting art form it must mobilize more than the artist’s senses of taste and art history. Academic modernism has the look of having been staked out critically even before the first trip to the art store.

Renouf’s earlier work shown in Europe was also made by removing threads from stretched canvas. These works seem to be considerably more successful, however. They are squarer pictures with only occasional warp as well as woof threads removed. The lines traced the faint distortions in the warp and woof of the cotton emphasized by the rectangularity of the support. The imperfectly flat plane they describe contrasts with the ideal flatness implied by the support, and the delicacy of Renouf’s technique is admirably tuned to the delicate discrepancy between the actual and implied surfaces of her paintings. The newer paintings require her technique merely to decorate the surface and realize objects that are a little too self-consciously elegant.

Ross Skoggard