New York

Joan Brady

Tatistcheff & Company, Inc.

This show marked Joan Brady’s debut as an oil painter. For more than two decades, she has been known as an extremely talented watercolorist, working in a relaxed realist vein that admits detail, without becoming tight or overly meticulous. Brady has developed a distinctive watercolor style that brings out essential shapes and masses through a tonal application of color. In the oil canvases, which she initiated after her previous solo show in 1987, Brady has in some respects adhered to the basics of her approach in watercolor, yet she also seems to have engaged the special physical character of oil paint.

Built up with thin layers of pigment, her surfaces are characterized by a pleasing materiality. The obvious delight Brady has taken in the tactile aspect of painting is evident in the emphasis on smooth areas and the tendency to blend certain strokes and leave others as textural marks or accents.

In her choice of subject matter, Brady reveals an affinity with the French Impressionists and their immediate heirs such as Edouard Vuillard and Henri Matisse. Like these artists, she seems to be more than a bit of a hedonist. In Jenny’s Pond in October, 1989, the glow of an autumnal sun appears to permeate the very structure of this scene, so that the water and land seem to soak up and bask in the atmospheric radiance. An energy seems to spring from the planar divisions, like an undercurrent that runs through the composition, pulling the eye along the edges between water and the grassy, flower-covered land surrounding it.

Another kind of harmony between the personal man-made environment represented by the home and nature is expressed in paintings such as Patience and Roses, 1989, and May Garden from the Living Room, 1990, in which bouyant effects lend equal vitality to the interior and exterior spaces depicted.

In the group of paintings featuring still-life ensembles, which includes the paintings An Afternoon in the Studio, 1988, Brady’s decorative impulses find their proper vehicle. In this work Brady’s debt to Matisse is reflected in the motif of an open book showing two reproductions of his paintings. In fact, Matisse’s often quoted statement from his Notes of a Painter, 1908, referring to his dream of “an art which could be . . . a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue,” might just as aptly serve as a motto for Brady’s work.

Ronny Cohen