Rochelle Feinstein, “Happy Birthday x Rachel,” 2009, stretched oil painting, cloth, board, tape, acrylic, framed photograph (Rachel Harrison), 42 x 60″
Last week I stopped by On Stellar Rays to check out the excellent Rochelle Feinstein (not to be confused with Rachel Feinstein) show, comprised of 13 paintings defined by Feinstein as “The Estate of Rochelle F.” Also included in the exhibition is a series of 29 ink drawings that constitute the pages of A Catalog of The Estate of Rochelle F. – Paintings 2009 – 2010, in which Feinstein indexes each of the paintings through text and illustrations.
In Bomb, Justin Lieberman writes that Rochelle Feinstein’s work is hard to decipher. “It is full of jokes, yet oddly lacking in punch lines. Unlike that of many of her postmodernist contemporaries, its elusive meaning has consistently deferred any sort of commodification. Alongside a continuous and insistent engagement with the problems of painting, she has produced video as well as sculpture and installation, yet her works are not intertextual pastiche or a pedagogical deconstructive tool. Ironically, they seem to continue the modernist project in spite of itself. It was said of Picabia that he was, above all, an abstractionist. For Feinstein, abstraction and non-instrumentalized thought have always reigned supreme. This makes her work particularly timely. Should we not, at the tail end of our postmodern, post-ideological era, look to those who kept the faith all along? Her paradoxically political brand of art pour l’art and her laissez-faire attitude toward subjects could easily be seen to prefigure the works of Rachel Harrison, or to sit alongside those of Jutta Koether, Michael Krebber, or Martin Kippenberger. Unwavering belief alternates with self-effacement, and then violently segues into an absurd surrealist game.”
Here’s an excerpt from Liberman’s interview with Feinstein:
What is compelling to make paintings about? The economy and everything else was either in shutdown or moving backward. I’d just consolidated two storage spaces into a single archive. My studio was packed with diverse materials, including paint to make paintings from—all were usable ‘assets’ with unrealized potential. It was an aha! moment: I decided to use up as much of this surplus as possible to make new work. This was a thought that had gravitas. To create an estate I would control, what would that be, pre-posthumously? Pre-post-humorously? Weird and interesting, to have a start and end point roll into each other, to be consciously creating a past intended as an accumulation of many paintings that would materialize as a corpus sometime in the future.Yeah, it’s a retrospective collection, assembled in the present tense . . . implemented as a device for me to devise new work. Revisionism is implicit in the act of recycling. In my case, both the inert materials and a few former paintings just came along for the ride, each presenting an idiosyncratic dare. Whatever inorganic stuff they are made from, how they signify, their vernacular associations (Craigslist, cardboard, placemats, snapshots, window shades, and so on), each presents a specific challenge. Their physical properties and the way we name and identify them both inevitably undergo alteration from their original state. My actions are directed by curiosity: how do these elements partner with a painting language that is, also, an already received one? This question has been prominent in my work since 1989.
In this project, I get to tweak my own credo. The Estate relies on the depletion of those things already available, including older paintings. Two rules emerged rather quickly. First, to not spend any additional money on this work and to use any and all supplies as ‘assets.’ Second, to use maximal material and minimal gesture. I hope we get to anarchy and what an oeuvre is later.”
Rail: Let’s focus on the works in the recent show. Take “Carousel” for example, a painting which, underneath, seems to be very worked, with well-rehearsed brush strokes, though one can read it as a puzzle because it was covered by a printed black image of luggage on a sheet of velum. It seems either deliberate or random. The same can be said of the other painting, “No Joke,” with the inflated color balloon placed on the top, which intensifies its precariousness because the whole painting is hanging on a thin string.
Feinstein: “Carousel” is one of those paintings that I think really has both my anger and my melancholy in it. First of all, anybody can make an abstract painting, if they’re taught how to make one. That was basically the painting underneath. Meanwhile, I had been thinking about the nature of collage—which is now called mixed media—and what it meant in the 20th century, which was about rupture. I wanted to carry the idea of rupture further with the digitally printed image on film.
Rail: The hand versus the machine.
Feinstein: Exactly. And that’s why the film is hung on two grommets—so that it doesn’t stay flat to the painting surface underneath. That way the exchange can be read more effectively.
Rail: Though with “Image of an Image” it was done with the opposite purpose: the shower curtain needed a little patch of silver and gold leaf in some parts to integrate the two surfaces.
Feinstein: True. One thing I did not want for my work was for anything to repeat; yet I want everything to be related to its moment. With the three paintings you just spoke about, while they’re not alike, they share an additive world, mostly. Painting isn’t enough for me, it really isn’t.