New York

Yolanda Shashaty

Sragow Gallery

There are now two main camps of art, each of which is diametrically opposed to the other’s esthetic value system. As a case in point, the recent landscape paintings of Yolanda Shashaty are in attitude as distant from the kind of cool and calculated fare coming down the appropriative pike as they could be. Their mode of address is forthright, not littered with historical non sequiturs, and their inflection is more pre-Modem than Post-Modem. Paintings such as Passage, Cathedral, and Venetian, all 1985, speak in the here and now not about the art-historical past, and Shashaty’s chosen manner of expression is emphatically visual, not conceptual. The key to one’s understanding of them is embedded in an issue that has remained one of the most critical in representational painting: the relationship of appearance and illusion.

Shashaty’s handling of this issue is self-assured. Working from her imagination, she nevertheless succeeds in imbuing her paintings with the authority of the real. The elemental forms she prefers—cliffs, mountains, the sea, clouds—are easily recognizable as such, but the places she creates from them impress as psychic containers, as statements of mood and feeling, not as documentation of specific sites. What turns the mundane recitation of fact into a magnificent expression of fantasy is her almost holistic approach toward the relationship of appearance and illusion, whereby one is made to be inseparable from the other in the mind’s eye. In Passage, for example, the water sweeping in a zigzag pattern through a range of cloud-capped hills has a magical energy about it. The scumbled surfaces of the forms glow with rich veins of red and blue accented with brilliant white, and seem to carry with them the generative force of nature. The complex skein of perspectival lines and planes implies a space that is at once fixed and mobile, lending to this already rhythmical composition the clear sensation of immanent movement, and opening up the painting’s broad poetic dimension to the viewer for interpretation.

Ronny Cohen