New York

Judy Rifka

Brooke Alexander

An urge to join the real, basically figurative world to the esthetic demands of abstraction is evident in Judy Rifka’s recent works. All have hybrid forms; these are paintings that are also constructions, built of panels layered out, or projecting from supporting walls. And all have multiple forms, with fields of pink, aqua, and bright orange-red inter-cut by raw canvas shapes. Confettilike dots punctuate the surfaces, further animated by Rifka’s characteristic quirky lines. But most important are her characters—a veritable New York cast. Most step out of the rock clubs; there are dancers, drummers, posers. And many are femmes fatales—racy ladies with high-heeled shoes, who strut their stuff and perform. These figures run and jump, cavorting across the canvas, or swoop in from the wings—from offstage, “real” terrain. And while some are punk priestesses, still others are graffiti guerrillières armed with spray cans. Whoever’s on the scene, supposedly, is there.

Through their collisions of figure and form, these paintings seem to extend an aim which Rifka has projected for years in video, installation, and performance. And that is to convey the sense of a world that is not only active—endlessly in motion—but is intercut by diverse and conflicting sensations. Forms here are continually bombarded; they are rained with dots and blasted by shapes. Some figures emerge from the panels while others recede within, so that all is endlessly oscillating. Rifka accentuates this through her crafty contours, suggesting movement through paint and line placed at interstitial odds. The result is constant dynamism—metaphoric flashing lights which illuminate a pointedly unstable stage. And while this may not be, as Rene Ricard writes in the catalogue, the “Greatest Show on Earth” (to make me believe it, you’ve got to tell me why . . .), it is a reasonable evocation of the dynamism of daily life. To use abstract, formal devices for such figurative ends is a considerable accomplishment.

Kate Linker