Monique Frydman

Galerie Laage-Salomon

Monique Frydman’s work tends to elicit either indifference or enthusiasm. The indifference stems perhaps from the fact that her paintings take no part in current artistic trends. But for those who still pursue beauty and pleasure in art, Frydman’s canvases are both provocative and affecting.

Frydman defines pleasure in painting as “the deployment of a particular form of knowledge . . . The fact of being at once mortal and eternal . . . the memory or the subconscious knowledge of happiness as a form of human materialization and perfection,” and she models her work on the paintings of Cézanne. (In 1992, for example, she gave a lecture at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris entitled “The Pursuit of Happiness in Cézanne’s Painting.”) Pleasure for Frydman represents a place where she finds the source of her art, a place she claims “in the most radical way joins that of man’s aspiration to persevere in his being,” something that is by its very nature elusive. “I am always trying to bring something into being that is hiding from its origins,” she explains.

An art of interiority, Frydman’s work boasts sumptuous color, dense and rich in the “Violet” series of 1992-93; muted and duskier, dominated by chromium green, in the “Dames de Nage” series of 1994-95. Her new untitled series marks a return to solar color—orange-reds, madder root or vermilions—as well as forget-me-not blue, violet, and navy. In these pieces, lines that show through the paint in spirals, wreaths, and arabesques are achieved through a process the artist first experimented with in “Dames de Nage.” In hopes of avoiding impulsive gestures and a growing tendency to privilege color, Frydman established a preset procedure: she arranged strings randomly on the floor beneath wet canvases, then made rubbings on the canvas using blocks of pastel or charcoal and brushes dipped in acrylic glue. While her desire for objectivity causes her to be bound by external constraints (“dame de nage” is a navigational term for a rudderlike device), it also, paradoxically, results in a kind of drawing that suggests a personal language.

The resonance of Frydman’s painting derives from this juxtaposition of dispossession and affirmation: mental distance is countered by the rhythmic, de Kooning–like gestures of her drawn lines, resulting in jubilant epiphanies, which both painter and viewer experience in an “absolute present.”

Anne Dagbert

Translated from the French by Jeanine Herman.