Contributed by Sharon Butler / In “Of Earth and Sky,” on view at Susan Eley Fine Art, Rachelle Krieger presents a new series of elegant abstract paintings in which winding brushstrokes float throughout tightly-cropped square spaces. Although they have the feel of landscape, they are fundamentally abstract, leanly imparting that impression with shape and line. For contemporary American painters — Jennifer Coates, Elisabeth Condon, Gregory Amenoff, Theresa Hackett, and Shara Hughes come to mind — the landscape is not a rational place, but rather an arena in which to jam emotion and anxiety. Recent museum exhibitions related to their endeavor might be “Marsden Hartley’s Maine” and “Edvard Munch: Between a Clock and the Bed,” both excellent exhibitions presented at the Met Breuer. Krieger too, adopts an intuitive, visceral approach to landscape imagery.
Using diverse brush sizes, from tiny rounds to hefty flats, Krieger’s loose, loopy lines twist and weave around opaque shapes, creating a sense of action in an otherwise inert, claustrophobic landscape. Where other artists might mix warm colors that would create the illusion of light falling on cooler-colored objects, Krieger cleverly divorces light from object, using thin yellow thread-like lines and fat transparent off-white ones to depict light waves rather than showing the result when they illuminate something else. Wind and electricity also figure into Krieger’s arsenal of the powerful unseen.
Thus, Krieger transforms these forces into leading players in theatrically cropped stages. In Branches with Light Rays 2 (2017), for instance, yellow strokes and shapes depict light and heat. In reality, of course, these elements are invisible and therefore unseen, but Krieger wants to explicitly recognize their ubiquity as catalysts for both beauty, and, more destructively, natural disaster. In Slow Storm (2017), grey circular strokes spiral, tornado-like, in the canvas’s upper right corner, grabbing paint from earlier layers while dripping onto patches of raw canvas. Paradoxically, the strokes seem both casually and carefully applied, lending a sense of impulsive immediacy to paintings that otherwise have cohesive composition and formal rigor.
For Krieger, a rock is just a rock, a tree is just a tree. Her interest lies in the invisible skirmishes that occur outside our vision and beyond our control. Indeed, without them, the earth would be a less compelling, lifeless place.
“Rachelle Krieger: Of Earth and Sky,” Susan Eley Fine Art, UWS, New York, NY. Through April 12, 2018