New York

Joan Fisher

Soho Center For Visual Artists

What the viewer saw in this showing of Joan Fisher’s recent paintings (part of a group show) were strikingly specific shapes boasting sharply defined, curvilinear silhouettes, contrapuntal linear infrastructures, and lush, light-sensitive surfaces. The works immediately impress as strong and lively arrangements of lines, planes, and colors. What the viewer senses, however, are “loaded landscapes” of the extra-formal, metaphorically charged kind pioneered by Wassily Kandinsky, Americanized by Marsden Hartley, and psychologized by the Surrealists. While different facets of the work of these artists are brought to mind by Fisher’s pictures, their combined presence hardly deflects the viewer’s recognition of the personal course that she has charted through the “loaded landscape”—which is, after all, a heavily trafficked terrain in 20th-century painting.

Last Leaf, 1982, like the other examples, is a rectangular canvas employing a unique dynamic format. The scene taking up the greater part of the surface is presented within an irregular frame outlined in white; this inner frame contrasts with the diagonal disposition of the shapes within it at the same time as it plays with the issue of illusionism. By overlaying shapes, in some places breaking through the inner frame by doing so, Fisher invites a reading of the composition in three-dimensional terms. Built up as it is with an appealing mixture of acrylic and modeling paste, the rich surface is outer-directed and confrontational; it forces the imagery out to the viewer rather than inviting the viewer in. The device of the inner frame also brings to mind a theatrical inset, which in turn imparts a narrative edge to the shapes and compositional structures. The sensation of story is reinforced as well by the titles; besides Last Leaf, these include Havana and Goodbye to Rosewood Lane (both 1982). In each painting the experience of colored space Fisher succeeds in providing is provocative.

Ronny H. Cohen