New York

Nancy Arlen

Stefanotti Gallery

This exhibition of new work showed Nancy Arlen to be one of the most visionary artists of the ’80s. The pieces are in cast polyester resin and are made according to the pouring process that Arlen has developed over the last few years; she transforms liquid polyester and various coloring materials (resins, glitters, Mylar, pigments) into a new category of dynamic, palpable, thoroughly contemporary art objects.

Compared to earlier series such as the “Auras” or the “Motifs,” the present group is bigger, bolder, and even more mysterious, though no less graceful or elegant. Three Roses, 1982, for example, contains the slim, strong, smoothly silhouetted curves that now interest Arlen: three curved elements, each multicolored, interconnect; the result is pro-vocatively confrontational, responsive to the surrounding environment yet in total control of the viewing process. Its constructive specificity of form is turned to emotive ends; though planar dimensions are sharply defined and color relationships sensuous and seductive, the total effect is extraperceptual. Measuring close to 30 inches in depth, Three Roses appears to be “comin’ at ya” in fast time. Its pure pictorial energy, aggressive in attitude, strikes direct emotional and visceral chords.

Finally what Three Roses, the striking silver-tipped Mirage, the dynamic, predominantly blue-and-green Lucky Nola, and the multi-piece installation Wave amply demonstrate is the important role of abstract art in focusing attention on how we think, feel, and see in our increasingly intensified and fragmented ’80s visual culture. No retro or neo blinkers for Arlen—hers is art that aims to speak in, to, and about these times, and succeeds.

Ronny H. Cohen