New York

Moira Dryer

John Good Gallery

Because of a certain duality of intent, Moira Dryer’s work has always exhibited conceptual fluctuations. She is too intent on playing with format to be a “painter’s painter,” but at the same time she is intimately connected to the emotive and esthetic concerns of Modernist abstraction. Her practice alternates between a timely critique of the medium and a will to render a pictorial space devoid of reference. Several of her paintings encompass this duality in the most thorough manifestation of her own sensibility to date.

Several of the paintings in this show—such as Fingerprint #2647, Portrait of a Fingerprint, E.K.G., and Pink, all 1988—feature a thin panel of wood mounted a few inches in front of the wall. This levitation of the picture plane causes Dryer’s washy images to float in front of a border of cast shadow. Pushing the flat surface out in this way, Dryer lends her work a sculptural physicality and a theatricality which act as counterpoints to her delicate surfaces. Her imagery is composed primarily of stripes and borders. Unlike Sherrie Levine, who appropriates the stripe directly, Dryer bends it into formations which she calls fingerprints, but which also remind one of topographically mapped landscapes. She often immerses her stripes in a visual haze, as in Parenthesis and The Rumor, both 1988, lending them a romantic quality. Dryer uses borders as incessantly as she uses stripes, putting all of her imagery, as it were, in parentheses. Using crisp lines and flat colors in her two- or four-sided borders, she makes her striped “content” hover like trapped mist.

In these paintings, Dryer’s wit merges gracefully with her casein washes, which seem to be borne along by the pattern of the wood grain.The tone of these paintings is one of bemused emotionality, as if Dryer were partially distant from her own practice and partially immersed in it. The Perpetual Painting, 1988, seemed the least successful piece in the show. In it, a red oscillating shape stretches across the surface, bordered on top and bottom by orange. Two wheels, connected by a fan belt, are attached to the far-left-hand side of the painting, as if they were endlessly generating the image. Dryer’s paintings in this vein—those incorporating assemblage—barely explore their central conceit, while betraying an essentially painterly approach.

Dryer’s partially appropriated stripes, her interest in where the image ends and the edge begins, her constant framing and quoting of her own practice as it develops, and her mixture of a three-dimensional format with flat Modernist patterns never overshadow her talent for and interest in developing her own abstract vocabulary.

Matthew A. Weinstein