New York

Cari Rosmarin

There seem to be three general schools of representational painting these days. Both neo-Expressionism and the cool, calculating camp of media-referenced, Modernist-derived work are now familiar fare. But last season there emerged a growing body of work more enigmatic and elusive in character; it has already attracted such labels as neo-Surrealism, neo-Romanticism, and neo-Symbolism. While these terms do give some indication of the emphatically personal and in some instances dreamlike qualities to be found in much of this painting, fair warning about these labels should be heeded. As far as catchphrases go, they are critical cop-outs.

My main objection to such “neoisms” is that, by overintellectualizing, they deliberately distance the viewer from a direct encounter with the art object. The uselessness of these terms was brought home to me by Cari Rosmarin’s recent show; though these kind of labels can be applied to her recent paintings and drawings, to do so is to completely miss the point. To my eye, hers is art not about art, but about the power of imagination. Rosmarin has developed a distinctive way of seeing, of building images capable of transforming reality into provocative fantasies.

Rosmarin’s sources of inspiration include deserts, oceans, mountains, cities, and architectural monuments; these motifs convey a vivid and universal sensation of place. The emphatic, almost stylized outlining of form endows her work with a psychic presence, intensified by the artist’s preference for strong and exotic colors. For example, the physical weightiness of barren cliffs—a recurring image in Rosmarin’s work—is magnified by these techniques. Another element that enhances the atmospheric resonance of her imagery is the handling of scale. In The Unchristened Ship, 1985, the overlarge ship looms on top of the waves, and the framing cliff walls, as they rise up from the ocean, thrust radically into the illusionistic space. This disjunctive relationship supercharges the emotive punch.

Ronny Cohen