New York

Suzanne Joelson

Friedus/ Ordover

Suzanne Joelson directly engages the distinctive way of seeing central to the emerging pictorial sensibility of the ’80s. Poised at the critical junctures separating abstract from figurative and image from ground, her large canvases project sparkling impressions of a mysterious and ultimately sentient space. Under sustained scrutiny the brushy surfaces come to visual life, seem to shift and shake, reluctantly yielding the fragments of recognizable imagery they contain.

In Spot Lights, 1983, for example, an exciting cascade of pigment at the lower left reveals a panting dog. Its rendering is reminiscent of the sturdy, friendly canines, the “Spots,” that once populated illustrated children’s books. In the center of the painting a chain of round wheels like mechanical gears hangs down and overlaps part of the dog’s body; overlapping both dog and chain is the upside-down figure of a woman with outstretched arms, resembling the benign mothers of ’50s advertising. To the left is the bending figure of a man in uniform. In terms of its recognizable imagery, the painting is easier to read in black and white reproduction than in actuality.

Joelson’s poured and dripped paint and her shimmering palette deliberately confound the expectation of clear and specific boundaries between say, surface and space. Instead, the painting as illusionistic image and as object are fascinatingly confused. Like many artists today, Joelson leaves meaning open, as open as the dynamic compositional structures she uses to make her statements. What matters more is the focusing of attention on the processes of both cognition and feeling.

Ronny Cohen