New York

Lydia Dona

Bertha Urdang Gallery

Lydia Dona paints on cardboard panels that form either horizontal or vertical sequences: sequences, not series, for the panels or frames are not all the same. Size varies as does technique; and displacement, not repetition, is the crux of the work. At least that is the format of two of the four works, Local Direction and French/German Color Proportion, 1; the other two are compositional (and compromise somewhat the merits of the first two).

Dona’s work recalls Jennifer Bartlett’s; both seem intuitive but are largely systemic. And yet Dona’s work is at once more simple and less obvious than Bartlett’s; its complexity is critical and never chaotic. In Bartlett the system takes over: it, not the artist, seems to generate the work and so it is not worked through as it is painted. Dona seems to work through more, perhaps because she takes on less.

Local Direction is a horizontal sequence of three equal frames, a smaller frame, and a smaller one still. The first frame is painted red on black but it is not posed as figure and field. The motif (if it can be called that) forms one element of all the work: it seems to represent painting as such. The second panel is green; the third gray. Both are earthy colors and connote art materials, and it is hard not to read them as abstracted elements of landscape. These colors, unlike the others, are physical; one is made aware that vision is, like all the other senses, “in the body.” The smaller frames are yellow and yellow and black; purer in color, they check the allusions to nature of the green and the gray frames and reassert the necessary artifice of the painting.

In effect and in part, Dona “decomposes” the composition of traditional painting into basic elements that she then re-composes in such a way that the pictorial is articulated on the nonpictorial (e.g. green becomes a sign for earth and, as a sign, is put in a line next to gray which is a sign for sky: both then are “framed” by artificial colors). In French/German Color Proportion, 1, the sequence is vertical and the stress is on the spatiality of different colors, but the operation is much the same.

Hal Foster