New York

Marianne Stikas

John Davis Gallery

Marianne Stikas succeeds in making the most elemental, and thus the most significant, kind of abstract paintings—the kind that literally get down to the architecture of ideas and feelings that provides the basis for pictorial elaboration.

It is not an exaggeration to claim that Stikas is an artist who knows the lay of pictorial space backward and forward. Notable in these paintings is the clear description of the illusionistic underpinnings of pictorialism. At issue throughout these dynamic compositions is the play of receding and advancing colored form—the relationship of surface to depth.

One of the small-format works entitled In Between II, 1990, reveals Stikas’ ability to charge abstract structures with poetic associations—to use size and scale to stimulate an intimate and spontaneous response on the part of the viewer. Composed of rippling striations of luminous color and cascading scroll-like units, the vibrating structures in this painting seem to push and pull against one another. The subtle shifting angles separating the shapes bring out their curvy contours. This, in turn, puts the viewer on more intimate terms with the harmonious rhythms supporting the compositional structures. One internalizes these rhythms in a way that stirs up ideas and even emotions. For me, this painting evoked thoughts about change of a reverberating, all-inclusive sort, along the lines of the seasons.

In another small-format painting entitled Shadow, 1990, the accent is less on rhythmical construction and more on the individual forms which seem ready to burst the confines of the painting’s surface. In this painting the illusion of relief created by highlighting the scroll-like shapes to bring out sculptural properties is particularly sharp. Notice how weighty the darker portions of these forms appear to be.

Can You Remember II, 1990, is another work in which Stikas exhibits a keen sensitivity to the expressive possibilities of her formal vocabulary. Here the scroll-like shapes emerge as animated entities. The urgency generated by the tension between flatness and depth seems to hold these forms tightly and exactly in place.

Ronny Cohen