In The Village Voice Robert Shuster reports that newcomer Virginia Martinsen is reinvigorating Ab Ex ideas and process. Abstract expressionism is now so embedded in our culture—accepted as a kind of brand name—that new work too often reflects our complacency with the style; the visions are bland, sloppy, or ill-conceived, aspiring to little more than unfocused doodling (à la early Cy Twombly) or, worse, inoffensive mélanges of color that corporations buy for their lobbies.
“So when a young newcomer shows up, in her first solo show, with a bold approach, mature ideas, and a tendency for restraint, it’s almost startling. Such is the case with 28-year-old Virginia Martinsen, who brings unhurried vigor and a somber palette to her particular method of action painting. Inspired by her visits to the castle of Austrian wild-man Hermann Nitsch (performer/paint-thrower/blood-spatterer with a good website), Martinsen pours a solution of oils, varnish, and dry pigment onto a canvas lying flat and, with only a little guidance, lets the puddles flow. It may sound simple, but Martinsen brings evident seriousness to whatever decisions she makes (particularly about when to stop). The work is elegant and haunting, a combination of brooding darkness, watercolor-like delicacy, and powerful movement.”
“Virginia Martinsen: Face on Mars,” ATM Gallery, New York, NY. Through October 17, 2009.
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