San Francisco

Inez Storer

Jeremy Stone Gallery

Inez Storer exhibited sumptuous mixed-media installments here, all from 1989, in what might be called her “Voyage of Self and Marriage” cycle. The paintings show male and female figures pitched against elemental vistas, predominantly, air and sea. The figures, with their sharply planed contours, have the individual, hieratic fixity of footprints; the elements—bright, busy air, darkly tossing sea—are all a matter of flux, so that each scene unwinds with a natural-looking, tousled continuity. The overall approach is personal and operatic, with images that have washed up plush from the artist’s soul.

Within a single canvas, Storer’s juicy colors vary in thickness and texture. There are sun-dried whites, acidy and powder blues, incinerated grays, aching red smears, and a blushful pink as gritty as brick. Other variances include bits of collage—old chintz lengths and chromos of birds, flowers, and Victorian show-folk, pressed and laminated so as to go seamlessly with the paint. Thrust forward in an expanding gravity puzzle, the human characters negotiate their fantasy situations like aerialists or gymnasts. The tangencies of water and weather are as specific in their blends and tensions as the relative position of one character to another, or what a single character finds in the way of a foothold—in Goncherova, for instance, the tip of a slender, upright plank for the toe of one blue shoe (just enough, it appears, for the bearer to maintain her sturdy, at-home look).

In the large diptych Race, one panel shows a white rabbit outlined in red leaping into the center of a mauve field, while a couple’s disembodied heads bumble placidly in the distance; on the other panel is a dark, prismatic, virtuoso effulgence that might be three simultaneous landscapes interlaced—or just a blanket signature of the artist’s pleasure in her medium and its aptitude for jewellike color and elastic space. The light touch, stemming from reverie, achieves a wide-awake presence, a mood of the plainest pleasure—what else but shared observation segueing to a mutual sentiment?—recalled and keenly accounted for.

Contour in these paintings is like faith in the integrity of the self. A pair of integers converges repeatedly in a kind of barometric proximity, wearing fancy hats; the two connect and sometimes overlap, but refuse to melt. Storer’s sense of activated spatial separateness and proportion in relationship is visionary. (And as contemporary views of the gender gap go, hers is spectacularly devoid of malice and rage.) It’s a comic vision of married love as an improvisation of selves pressing outward in tandem; in each in-between space lurks a large, possible pratfall or maelstrom. This aspect of the human comedy comes clear in ways that recall Edwin Denby’s lines about classical ballet where “there’s no quarrel, but there’s fate.”

Bill Berkson