Contributed by Riad Miah / “Bracing Against the Wind,” the title of Alyse Rosner’s solo exhibition at Rick Wester Fine Art, can be read literally and poetically. While her paintings depict dynamic elements of nature, they also reveal the intuitive hand of the artist. This allows the viewer to decode her process in making them, which includes rubbing, repetitive application, imparting decorative motifs, and more. The fluid and painterly dispersal of pigment onto the surface of the canvases recalls the work of Barbara Takenaga and Pat Steir. Unlike Pat Steir, who uses the grid as the foundation of her paintings, Rosner relies on gravity and flow to determine the early structure of her paintings. The title painting Bracing Against the Wind – an expansive 84″x216″ work composed on unprimed and unstretched canvas, drawing openly on the natural world – recalls Jackson Pollock’s masterful Autumn Rhythm. When I visited the show, a ceiling fan created a gentle breeze that made the canvas delicately ripple off the wall, conjuring the experience of watching leaves and branches sway in the wind.
Carrying Its Broken Shells, an equally large mural, references an aquatic environment. The painting’s dominant teal and blue-purple pigment pools towards the left of the canvas, perhaps because there was no stretcher to impede it. Rosner initially works outside, affixing the canvas to the side of her house, then takes it back to her basement studio or outdoor deck for further refinement. Her struggle to control the pigment at such a large scale while dealing with natural elements ramifies in some rewardingly unexpected ways. In Reveal, for instance, the paint has come to resemble the bark on a white oak tree. Juxtaposed with this fluidity is more controlled, precise mark-making against the substrate. A series of ribbon-like passages and repeated linear marks coalesce just right of center, hovering above the fluid background like a school of fish swimming around a coral reef. Adding yet another dimension, a graphite rubbing occupies the center of this piece and others.
Rosner includes in her paintings images of her immediate natural surroundings, such as the Burdock leaf. She has at times also incorporated the latticework of her deck. The combined effect of these devices is the simultaneous capture of organic and artificial processes of making. Another compelling duality in Rosner’s work is its unmediated linkage to nature, on the one hand, and its evident connection with the history of painting, on the other. Her paintings are not landscapes per se, but they evoke the genre. While they explicitly embrace the natural environment, they also employ abstract imagery that only resembles or suggests it. This entrenched ambiguity or perhaps open-endedness is traceable, at least in part, to Rosner’s meditative control-and-release approach, whereby she does not know how a piece will end up but trusts her process to arrive at a satisfying result. In this her invariably intriguing work seems to embody Lao Tzu’s wise observation: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
“Alyse Rosner: Bracing Against the Wind,” Rick Wester Fine Art, 526 W. 26th Street, Suite 417, New York, NY. Through April 15, 2023.
About the Author: Artist and educator Riad Miah was born in Trinidad and Tobago and lives and works in New York City. He has exhibited with Lesley Heller Workspace, Rooster Gallery, and Sperone Westwater Gallery. A solo show of his paintings is now on view at Equity Gallery.