New York

Daria Dorosh

Daria Dorosh’s recent paintings seem to be largely about color—deep, rich, glowing color with only the slightest bit of visual detail used to structure them. Curiously, however, I was hard put after first seeing them to say with certainty precisely what colors I had been looking at. I was left with the impression of color per se, rather than of specific colors.

The 16 paintings in this show ranged from one foot square to five feet square. They were installed on only one wall of the gallery—some at eye level and some considerably higher, some in groups of three or five and others alone. It was an unusual way to install paintings, but effective in creating the impression of a body of work and in giving strength to several weaker paintings by massing them together.

It seemed effective in another way too. The installation reminded me of the fenestration in Le Corbusier’s chapel at Ronchamp, especially as seen from inside when light is filtering through the chapel’s deeply recessed colored glass windows. This reference, although unintentional, seems appropriate for paintings which can be broadly spoken of as religious.

Dorosh’s paintings are done with oil paint stick on paper or, in the case of the largest works, on muslin-backed paper. The raw, rather blatant colors are put down and then blended and muted by rubbing them with the hand or a rag. The rubbing creates a smooth, waxy surface and eliminates sharp divisions between areas of color. Colors flow together, overlap, and show through one another, so that an area that appears to be red turns out on close examination to be not just red, but blue, green, orange, and yellow as well.

The most specific format, used in seven of the paintings, is a square painting with two vertical lines toward the center, suggesting a square within a square, but more in the manner of Rothko than Albers. This centrality has occurred in some of Dorosh’s earlier work, particularly in a series of discs—some solid and some with circular openings in their centers—done between 1975 and 1977. In the five-foot-square paintings, which are Dorosh’s largest to date, the image of the central square suggests deep space or a void. In some a bright light appears to be emanating from the void, while in others one has the feeling that one is looking into a bottomless pit. However, there is nothing frightening or negative about the void in these paintings: rather it seems to be a warm and almost religious place, inviting rather than forbidding.

Dorosh’s earlier work has included small watercolors as well as plaster rectangles and discs, all painted in light, pastel colors. They were fine so far as they went, but they didn’t go far enough. These new paintings are bigger, darker, richer in color, more painterly, and more assertive, and all these changes seem to be for the better. I found the three largest and one of the small paintings—all using the square-within-a-square format—the strongest and most resolved in the show. For me, these were beautiful, mystical works which made me feel welcome in them.

Jeffrey Keeffe