Amy Kaufman: Recent Work at Traywick Contemporary

Shotgun Review

Amy Kaufman: Recent Work at Traywick Contemporary

By Barbara Morris October 30, 2018

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Barbara Morris reviews Amy Kaufman: Recent Work at Traywick Contemporary in Berkeley, California.


Amy Kaufman's meditative works on paper and canvas employ geometric designs and repetitive patterns that are framed within minimalist forms and simple shapes. Kaufman has produced a body of work that reflects more than two decades of continued exploration of reductive abstraction, and her current show at Traywick Contemporary, Amy Kaufman: Recent Work, presents selections across media—charcoal, pastel, silverpoint on paper, oil on canvas—that slowly reveal a wealth of information through an economy of means. 

Kaufman's obsession with materials, and with mark-making, is conspicuously evident throughout the show. While her work is rooted in minimalism, Kaufman's stray marks, wavering lines, and dynamic applications of media yield images and surfaces that invite more visceral, intimate relationships. Tea (2017), an imposing charcoal work, makes use of one of the artist's signature forms: a looping leaf-like shape that clusters and disperses into a repeating pattern, wending across the surface of the paper.

Amy Kaufman. Tea, 2017; charcoal on paper; 47 x 40 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Traywick Contemporary.

Even in the absence of color, the composition of Tea conveys a range of values and textures. A dense, wide mark suggests the use of a sturdy chunk of compressed charcoal; the blurred edges of the dark shapes bear the traces of firm pressure against a surface, an effect that achieves tonal changes through blending and erasure. By imagining the experience of creating this mark, viewers might feel echoes of this line in their bodies, along with frissons of the tension and release of muscles as the gesture is completed. Kaufman's labor-intensive process also refers to the passage of time and, through this, the parallel experience of prolonged viewing.

Modestly scaled yet powerful works in pastel on paper, 4 rex1 (2016) and 4 rex 2 (2016) recall the color-study paintings of Josef Albers while they evoke the stacked, solid rectangles of Donald Judd’s sculptures. In each work, an arrangement of four rectangles wavers and slumps in a composition that is precariously off-balance. Kaufman's wry revisions of formalism render hard-edged abstraction in an empathetic guise.

Through smudges and traces of the artist's hand, Kaufman infuses austere forms with quirky details that suggest the imperfection intrinsic to human nature. With an insistent presence that reveals the weight of each carefully considered decision, her work exhaustively investigates optical and tactical sensation and the timeless pursuit of a wordless eloquence of form.

Amy Kaufman: Recent Work is on view at Traywick Contemporary in Berkeley through November 3, 2018.

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