September 29, 2011

Elizabeth Hazan and Jennifer Riley at Janet Kurnatowski

 Elizabeth Hazan, "Untitled (Across the Universe)," 2011, oil on canvas, 2011, 24 x 30"

Elizabeth Hazan and Jennifer Riley present buoyant abstraction at Janet Kurnatowski through October 9. Both painters are interested in shape, line, and the emotional content of color more than the viscous, visceral application of paint. Based on map imagery, Hazan in her vibrant paintings uses purposeful, specific color to place the animated shapes in space. "I begin paintings with large areas of color and then in smaller areas use pairs of color to play back and forth, for instance one color will surround a square of the other and then it will reverse in another area," she writes in her statement. Likening her use of color to how composers explore the variations on a line of melody, Hazan derives her titles from the songs she was listening to while making the paintings, and indeed the paintings recall the American jazz-steeped easel-sized abstractions from the 1940s.

Where Hazan takes static images and enlivens them, Riley composes meticulous images from gestural pastel studies. The original impulsive scribbles are assessed, edited, and carefully rendered in oil on canvas, not unlike Roy Lichtenstein's brushstroke series from the 1960s. Lichtenstein was commenting on 1950s action painting and suggesting that the agitated brushstroke had become a cliché, but Riley seems to be exploring how we turn fleeting circumstance and improvisation into something more permanent. "Line allows me to follow a feeling into the place where it can either open up and be seen clearly or to where it can dissolve into or become lost in its environment," Riley writes. "Color remains the key element that allows me to chase a particular vibration or timbre or feeling." I think Riley's paintings, lively and original as they are, also offer a sharp comment on mediated experience and the demise of authenticity.

 Elizabeth Hazan, "Untitled (Don't Walk) )," 2011, oil on canvas, 2011, 30 x 24"

 Elizabeth Hazan, "Untitled (House of Cards)," 2011, oil on canvas, 2011, 24 x 20"

 Jennifer Riley, "Stringing the Stars Low," 2011, oil on linen, 16 x 16"

  Jennifer Riley, "Mockingbird 2," 2011, oil on canvas, 16 x 16"

  Jennifer Riley, "Mockingbird 1," oil on canvas, 40 x 40"

"Soundings: Elizabeth Hazan & Jennifer Riley," Janet Kurnatowski, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY. Through October 9, 2011.

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