Miguel Abreu Gallery, September 7 – October 19, 2008
The Miguel Abreu Gallery is low lit for “Free Way,” Raha Raissnia’s composite 35mm slide projection and 16mm film. Her big black and white paintings and small drawings don’t suffer from the dimming, a testimony to the toughness of all Raissnia’s work—you can see it in the dark. It’s as if the sci-fi illustrator H.R. Geiger were to make something that the cleaver-wielding minimalist Barry LeVa would approve. If your creepy meter isn’t reading high enough, a throbbing soundtrack pulsing through the gallery ought to jack it up.
Everything in the exhibition is about looking very closely. The imagery is abstract, but what comes across is a sense of exploring some sort of organic-mechanical system through a magnifying glass. The film is a composite of found 16mm footage spliced together and then painted and altered by hand. Some representational imagery—from x-rays, in particular—does appear, but for the most part the sensation of dark motion and changing textures dominates. Raissnia overlays the 16mm footage with 35mm slide projections thus doubling the image and deepening the sense of immersion in an alien landscape. What little color she uses (the only place it appears is in the films) seems carefully inserted to highlight the severity of the rest of the palette.
Raissnia’s paintings are large without being monumental and the emotion they convey is severely compartmentalized. This is different: we’re familiar with painting that intentionally avoids emotion to evoke contemporary being, but less so with painting that attempts to pinpoint exactly what form our present feeling takes (as if we are any less emotional today than we ever were). The paintings’ movement seems cinematic. When their black interlocking forms – sometimes jagged, sometimes curved—bleed occasionally into the white ground, it’s like mist on marble. A brooding classicism underpins these dark surfaces, a labyrinthine hive extending beyond the picture plane’s boundaries. Is it adapted from some other source, lifted from life as is the 16mm footage? It seems not. The forms feel found in a more organic sense. Either way, Raissnia has invested them with the power of imagination.
There’s plenty of tributary history in Raissnia’s work. Stan Brakhage’s films are a colorful relative but there’s a clearer family resemblance in the abstract films of Hans Richter from the 1920s. The mood is less somber with Richter, but the sense of a system in which elements of form repeat themselves against the mobile backdrop of cinematic time is germane. The idea of photography and film usurping painting is as long gone as the ’80s. Raissnia draws on film for her painting then seamlessly exhibits the two media side by side.
ContributorBen La Rocco
Robert C. Morgan: The Loggia Paintings: Early and Recent WorkBy Jonathan Goodman
NOV 2022 | ArtSeen
Intellectual, critic, and art historian Robert C. Morgan also makes paintings, and has been doing so for most of his long career. The current show, on view in the large, high-ceilinged main space of the Scully Tomasko Foundation, consists of a series of drawings called Living Smoke and Clear Water: small, mostly black-and-white works, of both an abstract expressionist and calligraphic nature (early on in life, Morgan studied with a Japanese calligrapher).
Brenda Goodman: Hop Skip JumpNew Work 2022By Andrew L. Shea
MARCH 2023 | ArtSeen
These paintings work not in the realm of intellect, but that of feeling. Goodmans is a formalism that is never escapist or hermetic, but instead tied to an encyclopedic spectrum of human emotions, including terror, despondency, anger, hope, joy, even love. As she prepares to enter her ninth decade, Goodman has once again come upon a new abstract language that, somehow, remains intimately in touch with those important realities.
Robert C. Morgan: The Loggia Paintings: Early and Recent WorkBy Raphy Sarkissian
NOV 2022 | ArtSeen
Severe yet expressive, hermetic yet lucid, circumspect yet luxuriant, the geometric abstractions painted by Robert C. Morgan are absorbing explorations of form.
Robert Motherwell: The Drawings of a PainterBy Katy Rogers
FEB 2023 | Editor's Message
The catalogue raisonné of Robert Motherwells drawings, which was published by Yale University Press in November 2022, was the culmination of more than ten years of research and serves as a companion to the 2012 catalogue raisonné of Motherwells paintings and collages.