Darra Keeton at Swarthmore

Darra Keeton paintings at Swarthmore College

In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Edith Newhall reports that lyrical, gestural abstract painting is alive and well in Philadelphia. “A survey of Darra Keeton’s paintings at Swarthmore College’s List Gallery shows her stylistic evolution between 1991 and 2009, a prolific period in which she initiated and moved between at least six bodies of work on paper and canvas. ‘Hope,’ a small painting from 1991 and one of the earliest works in her show, is very much a product of its time, when a group of young New York artists were looking at the paintings of such artists as Burchfield, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and Norman Bluhm (still alive then, and creating his most original work) and forming their own hybrids of landscape and biomorphic abstraction.

“But it’s also the key to Keeton’s development, containing many of the organic forms, gestures, and colors that she goes on to deploy in subsequent works. In the series titled ‘Locus’ and ‘In Vivo,’ she isolates various forms from nature or, as in the monoprints from the series ‘Code,’ reconfigures and compresses them into pillar-like shapes that look like they’re composed of writhing snakes – although flattened doughnuts and sausages come to mind as well.

“In 1998, Keeton introduced a compositional element that resembles scaffolding or architecture in the process of collapsing, in a gouache-on-paper series called ‘Axon.’ The resemblance of these images to the much-photographed collapse of the World Trade Center towers, three years in the future, is so uncanny, so seemingly prophetic, that you wonder if Keeton is prescient or just so keenly tuned in to the possibilities of structures that she automatically imagines how they will deconstruct.

“Clearly, she later took note of the similarities between her images and the towers: The paintings from her ‘Theory of Forgetting’ series, begun in 2001 – among them Theory of Forgetting 8, in which yellow scaffolding seems to be melting in molten orange – undoubtedly were her visceral response to the events of 9/11.”

Darra Keeton: 1989-2009 Paintings,” The List Gallery, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA. Through Dec. 13.

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