Lansing

Beverly Fishman, Dividose M.B.V., 2013, triptych, enamel on polished stainless steel, overall 60 x 72". From the series, “Dividose,” 2002–.

Beverly Fishman, Dividose M.B.V., 2013, triptych, enamel on polished stainless steel, overall 60 x 72". From the series, “Dividose,” 2002–.

Beverly Fishman

Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum

Beverly Fishman, Dividose M.B.V., 2013, triptych, enamel on polished stainless steel, overall 60 x 72". From the series, “Dividose,” 2002–.

Using the Broad Art Museum’s new Zaha Hadid–designed building to advantage, curator Alison Gass has installed two separate yet related series of Beverly Fishman’s geometric paintings from the past three years on the irregular, pentagonal ground floor. The title of the show, “Focus,” comes across as a pointed pun, given that it is precisely focus itself that these paintings—much like the deconstructivist building that is hosting them—destabilize, distract, and charge with dizzying physical energy.

Fishman’s densely layered works are silk-screened onto bases of polished stainless steel that mirror distorted versions of the surrounding environment. Their quintessentially Op-art effect—a heightened immediacy and disorienting illusion of incessant oscillation—is thus amplified by their reflective properties. Fishman was heavily influenced by the hard-edge abstract paintings of artists such as Gene Davis and Richard Anuszkiewicz, yet her Conceptualist approach extends beyond Op’s traditional appeal to visual sensation alone. Her feverish patterns are in fact appropriated from medical imaging, and as such, her paintings combine perceptual effects with found-image art—Bridget Riley meets Gerhard Richter. The picture and its effect, in Fishman’s work, thus share the common ground of neuroscience. Central to these paintings’ iconography is a visual language that metonymically indicates biological phenomena: the imagery of brain waves, neuron spike patterns, and heartbeats. The artist also weaves in pharmaceutical bar codes and silhouetted pills, intertwining the unruly and organic yet measured and recorded medical body with the coercive system of the drug industry and its dialectic of control and release. These found patterns are defamiliarized into dense, computerized combinations that are rendered in multiple handpainted enamel layers. Her audacious palette of intense yellows, oranges, reds, magentas, blues, and greens is not merely physically bracing; it also nods to biochemistry’s use of fluorescent dyes to track the motion of cells and molecules in the body.

In effect, Fishman’s paintings translate the abstracted representational regimes of the medical industry back into an image with physical, corporeal presence. The diagrammatic trace of the patient, the painter’s gesture and process, and the viewer’s moving eye and body are here collapsed, creating an intoxicating synergy. Take, for example, Dividose M.B.V., 2013, one of the largest paintings in the show. Structurally, its three panels mirror the indentations of a tripartite Dividose pill, which is often used for antidepressant and antianxiety medications and is designed to be split into smaller doses. Implicit in the titles of the “Dividose” series, 2002–, is a coded reference to the source imagery: M.B.V., for example, indicates molecules, bar codes, and Valium. The thin central panel of this massive piece is mounted at eye level, and the polished-steel ground exposed between the bar code’s horizontal stripes mirrors the viewer’s standing figure as well as the paintings hung on the opposite wall, triggering a relativistic experience of unbounded, soft-edged geometry that extends beyond descriptive language. With Dividose tablets, cautious and self- controlled dosage is encouraged—the same could certainly be advised for one’s consumption of these paintings, whose impact is as visceral as it is cerebral.

Nadja Rottner