New York

Helen Oji

Monique Knowlton

Helen Oji is fully involved in the current trend toward personalized visualizations, whether of formal issues like colored space or representational issues like the human figure. She first came to the general attention of the New York art world in 1980; the recent works develop the structural and thematic potential inherent in the examples from that period in intriguing ways.

Space Shuttle, 1982, strongly recalls work such as Flight, 1980, but the newer piece is the bolder creation. Oji continues to use her mixed-media combination of acrylic: rhoplex, and glitter, and the unique shape—the painting has a rectangular top and a billowing lower half—that seems to refer to a folded kimono (the artist’s background is Japanese). The Space Shuttle,shown from below, fills the shaped format as it appears to lift off, nose up, and penetrates a lush, brushy atmosphere of blue and purple swirls. The result is a totally dynamic and alive image. Similar sharp sensations of movement dominate the viewing of the series of depictions of an octopus. The largest, Inky, 1982, on a rectangular canvas, is a brilliant red, all-over composition, brimming with a vitality that captures the active, restless, unpredictable movement associated with the popular image of this creature. Oji’s skill at animating a regular, as opposed to an exotically shaped, format is convincing.

A series entitled “Bee Metropolis” constitutes Oji’s first sculptures. Fully modeled in the round, these mixed-media-on-styrofoam beehives are strong, decorative constructions whose bright, even garish colors offer a fascinating play on sensual luxuriousness and tackiness. The constructions probably have their origins in Swarming Bees, a painting from 1980.This show tellingly revealed Oji’s distinctive vision.

Ronny H. Cohen