JILL MOSER New Paintings and printsby Michael Straus
New Paintings and Prints
Lennon Weinberg Gallery
February 18 – April 13, 2010
Jill Moser’s second show at Lennon Weinberg represents an expansion and development of the “compression and release” style that is something of her signature. While in prior works she has tended to focus on singular applications of color, such as deep blues or oranges on a field of white, here she experiments with wider, almost metallic applications of grey brushstrokes over which her narrower but bold jagged/linear/looping blue, red, black yellow and/or orange forms are painted. The earlier works (and, full disclosure, I love those and own one) are focused studies of the dynamic interaction within the space of the painting between tightly-drawn horizontal, vertical and/or diagonal lines with freer-flowing curves, circles and loops (although in a way, I hesitate to describe anything that Moser does as “free-flowing” because in fact she leaves little to chance, carefully controlling the forms while leaving the deception of freedom to remain). Whereas the earlier works focus nearly exclusively on the self-referential and self-contained push and pull of one form of line with another, Moser’s newest works add the additional complexity not only of a second color range – metallic greys underlying the blacks, blues, reds and/or oranges of the lines – but of contrasting hues, here the neutrality of the grey with the “pop” of the other colors laid above it. The question is whether this adds to or subtracts from the dynamism that has otherwise characterized her work.
One thing I will say, and that is that I could do without the titles, by means of which I suppose Moser is extracting or abstracting a verbal resonance tied to the visual conflicts and battles within the works. But when you name a visual work you run the serious risk of limiting alternative constructions. In “Chaser,” for example, it adds nothing to the inherent energy of the work to note that one form might be seen to “chase” another. I can think of numbers of other words that might describe the interaction of the forms, all of them making some sense to me but none being adequate to the task and therefore all being counterproductive. So I would leave well enough alone and think about something boring like numbering the paintings. However, that’s maybe just my personal bias and a holdover from my affection for some of the members of the New York School.
More importantly, the new works themselves are presented in two formats, in the former case as acrylic and oil on canvas and in the latter case as monoprints on paper. While there is no doubt that the added dimension of broad and swooping grey, more or less Lichtensteinian brushstrokes, creates a successful foil and counterpoint to her more disciplined applications of brighter-hued colors, I found myself spending more time with the monoprints than the paintings. To be sure, in both instances, these works are not one-trick ponies, in that what I noted above as the “compression and release” aspects of her contrasting linear and looping forms not only maintain an ongoing visual tension with themselves but also with the underlying and arguably more gentle grey brushstrokes and thus go well beyond her prior work while at the same time maintaining its essential flow and movement.
But I felt that these two core elements of the new works were more independent of one another in the paintings than in the monoprints. I think this is attributable to the nature of the ground media themselves, in that as applied to paper – and the images don’t really show this of course – it is not always clear whether what seem to be the underlying greys dominate over the blues and oranges or whether it’s the other way around, while in the paintings it is always clear that the greys are the recessive element and the colors the dominant. The added virtue of the monoprints for me is therefore that they provide yet another, third dynamism to the works in that there is a continual push and pull not only between the brushstrokes on the one hand and the linear or looping lines on the other hand, but also between and among the neutral brushstrokes themselves and the more brilliant lines. To that extent, the monoprints exhibit what might well be unexpected but nevertheless welcome aesthetic consequences of Moser’s experimentation with new forms and applications.