New York

Roxi Marsen

CDS Gallery

Although many still prefer art made the idea-oriented, Modernist way (and I put the media appropriators in this bag), the ’80s have seen a growing dissatisfaction, even an uneasiness, with much of the predictable, overly derivative fare around, the inevitable product of programmatic thought. Yet the notion that art should be meaningful is as strong as ever, with people seeming to want more and not less from art. This may explain the growing interest, particularly among younger artists, in primitive and other pre-Modernist sources. Giotto, for example, has become one of the hot topics and influences of the ’80s. What’s going on? Clearly the contemporary taste, whether consciously or not, has begun the search for a road back to a quality almost neglected in a century dominated by theoretical issues—visual imagination.

Roxi Marsen, a young New York artist, seems to have already found her own way on that road. In her recent paintings she reveals a clear ability to transform the familiar into the fantastic. Working in a bold, gestural style, she endows her landscape scenes with an oddly thrilling dimension. Trees, hills, earth, rocks, and water are seen in a new psychic light. In Blinding Nightfall, 1984, the crisscrossing patterns of black beams falling across a landscape suggest the generative force of nature. It is conveyed in the dense, dark surfaces of the pigment, animated by stark linear rhythms and contrasts in texture, and in the brown snatches of earth gleaming behind the black. Alternating the surfaces of the beams from patent-leather shiny to dull mat, Marsen encourages the viewer to confront the work’s impenetrable perceptual physicality.

Mystery is the pervading sensation in the other paintings as well. Is the secret about to be revealed in the seemingly ceaseless change of Dreaming Butterfly, 1984? Here, Marsen’s adroit use of black and white heightens the intensity of the painting’s dominant blues, greens, and yellows, pushing the work toward iconic status. This in turn lends a compelling visionary urgency to the sweeping strokes surging across the surface in thick, luscious waves, and to the landscape forms created, which appear simultaneously in the process of becoming and of breaking up. Throughout this show Marsen’s keen sensitivity to the sentient aspect of painting yields rich rewards.

Ronny Cohen