New York

Susan Crile

Fischbach Gallery

A structure’s joint, the point of greatest potential for weakness, for buckling and collapse, can also be the point of its greatest strength. No doubt this principle holds true in any art. In writing, the white between two words can make them comrades for what they share or strangers for the ocean which separates them. The four corners of the painted canvas can likewise be considered “joints,” the points articulating the meeting of two powerful forces—the horizontal and the vertical. They too can be dislocated or tautly joined, depending on how they are approached with form and color. Susan Crile’s paintings multiply the challenge, the danger and the potential power in such junctions by creating more corners with which to deal.

In Ark the canvas is bitten into twice from above and sliced several times along the other edges. Fifteen points of juncture create problematic relationships with each other and with the overall composition. Even though the work is executed on a single canvas, the wide dentated spaces delimit three distinct areas. The painting becomes a grand tripartite equation which clamors for an equals sign. This is an “ark,” and it must be kept visually buoyant. All the cross-canvas purposes, the dynamic balance of color and form and the long acute angles sliced off the bottom make this “craft” rock and toss against the billowing clouds of transparent gray washes.

The highlight of this show is a folding screen called Lake Dancers, made up of 12 panels which undulate approximately every two feet at a regular beat of 45-degree angles. Here we have a tour de force of complexities incurred by corners: both sides of the screen are painted, and their joining hinges are angled in space. The front is filled with islands of dancing shapes in small rushes of tangerine, yellow, green, blue. Viewed as if seen from a low-flying glider, this topographic landscape literally unfolds as the forms move, opening and closing across the two-part screen. Moving from one pair of panels to another, forms brace themselves for the oncoming hinge angle, undergoing transitions in shape and color intensity. The top of the screen’s front continues on over to the back. The blues scalloping it deepen and increase in density making them flow over to the other side, the realm of deeper waters and higher altitudes.

Whether building a screen in space or constructing a diptych in two dimensions, Susan Crile utilizes a gap or a hinge which either in actuality or by visual implication relates the units. The painting titled Closed Infinity does not have a gap or any intrusion of space, but running through it is a dark blue-green-violet sealed line, a scar which marks the site of a chasm, a “closed infinity.” The boundless in this painting, a whirlpool form, has its vortex beyond the bottom limits of the canvas. The thick landscape of warm patches, continuing upward indefinitely, has been bound by residing within the classic rectangular two-dimensional format.

Susan Crile’s past work dealt with decorative oriental rug patterns. Her primary preoccupation was with surface, how paint could dispose itself on it, how creases could jar it. Her recent work, though undoubtedly a departure from her past, is still involved with that surface, how it can be sealed and how it can be released. The hinges of the Lake Dancers screen and the gap between two panels of a diptych titled Deep Tide act as spatial inclines and runways which encourage passage, leaps into flight. The works which have not been cut or aligned into units, such as the vibrantly colored pastel drawings, also soar through the ongoing harmony between the ocean of white paper and the electricity of color, the open and the closed.

Judith Lopes Cardozo