Shotgun Review

Fresh Paint

By Shotgun Reviews May 31, 2012

Leah Rosenberg’s new work at Truesilver Gallery interrogates painting, sculpture, and the act of looking in a self-deprecating way that is nonetheless intelligent and assertive. Neither the artist nor the work offers answers as much as proposed lines of escape from the usual questions.

Immediately inside the door of the gallery is a small table on which sits a tall stack of thick sheets of acrylic paint: folded, brightly colored, and tempting to touch. Each sheet could be the surface of a painting, divorced from its usual support and the fraught references that it contains. The sheets as surfaces are freed from that illusion, freed from the work of being something else. They are simply material that is flat, folded, stacked, and sharing our space.

On the wall to the right, similar sheets of color minus support are draped on a row of nails, three to each nail, organized by the artist’s fine-tuned color sense and the chance composition of hanging material. The lack of any traditional stretcher or canvas gives each group a sculptural nature even as they retain a reference to flatness and painterly materiality.

This questioning of flatness shows up in every work on display as each piece of paint stretches under its own weight, effectively pulling itself apart. But this fragility is never tentative. In sheet paint feed back (2012), two long ribbons of colored sheets run up the corner wall to the ceiling and then back down in a graceful arc, ending delicately over two pedestrian sawhorses whose very presence emphasizes the paint’s ephemerality. The flat ribbons transit the space curiously, transforming their

Leah Rosenberg. Sheet paint feed back (detail), 2010; acrylic paint and sawhorses; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Truesilver Gallery, San Francisco.

flatness into depth by highlighting the solidity of the specific objects surrounding them. It is the artist’s ability to make flatness a part of the surrounding space that interrogates the act of looking.

In the next corner, Rosenberg revisits previous stripe paintings by covering the surfaces in the ubiquitous sheets of color, which take on a frosted look that throws the sharp mechanical edges of the previously painted stripes into subtle relief. Like faint notes on the art historical investigation of space, the taped edges surface as remnants of painterly illusion, nearly hidden but still necessary. The fragments of tape act as connective tissue between the sheets of color, the surrounding space, and a viewer sharing that space, beckoning us toward haptic seeing.

 

Fresh Paint is on view at Truesilver Gallery, in San Francisco, through July 10, 2012.

 

Matthew Marchand, an artist and writer, lives and works in San Francisco.

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