Guest contributor Jonathan Stevenson / Ruth Root’s seven striking shaped canvases, on display at Andrew Kreps Gallery in Chelsea and all untitled, might recall Elizabeth Murray’s transcendent household paintings, Hermine Ford’s erudite explorations of nature and artifice, or, more distantly, Kelly and Stella’s hard-edge Minimalist works. Indeed, Root has freely and openly acknowledged her antecedents. But this serially innovative painter is also onto something distinctly her own.
[Image at top: Ruth Root, Untitled, 2014-2015, fabric, enamel, Plexi, spray paint, 84 x 103 inches. ]
Each piece comprises two main elements – digitally-printed fabric of Root’s own design (involving dots, lines, and more elaborate shapes) and a Plexiglas panel enamel- and spray-painted in oblique reference to the pattern or in looser coordination with it. They hang in restive equilibrium. One element tempers the visual primacy of the other, while each work as a whole presents a controlled conflagration of line, color, and allusion, sometimes to mesmerizing effect.
Just as importantly, Root employs the fabric component to support the Plexiglas piece by means of folds and loops. In thus attenuating the hardness of the painting with pliable material, and in obscuring by diversion the traditional starkly physical attachment of the painting to the gallery wall, that space becomes less negative and more integral to the visual experience. The work and the wall seem organically rather than merely practically related, and, beyond that, the exhibition elegantly presumes to assimilate much of the wider world.
The net result of Root’s artful machinations is a remarkably assured integration of object and environment. The seamless connections this ingenious painter forges among support, surface, medium, and worldly context, and her subtle internalization of historical influences, make extolling the rootedness of her work more than just a bad pun.
“Ruth Root,” Andrew Kreps, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through August 14, 2015.
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