BOSILJKA RADITSA The Nature of Memory
On ViewThe Painting Center
January 31 – February 25, 2012
In this small, delicate show of gouache paintings and pencil drawings, Bosiljka Raditsa has fashioned a vibrant pageant of meditations on color and gesture. Though the paintings are thoroughly abstract, memory is a clear subtext throughout the works, secondary to formalist aesthetic experimentation. The pieces are divided into two groups: a series of pencil sketches of a local grapevine/tree hybrid called a vite maritata that provides ample opportunity for Raditsa to play with subtleties of graphite texture and mark, and her paintings, which toy with geometry, form, and structure.
The volumes created with complementary shapes in bright, cheerful colors have the mathematical insight of Cubism, but with a gentler touch. There is the whimsy of form that seems to emanate from Gorky, but without the darkness and pain. Raditsa’s method of layering colors and applying washes and skeins of flesh tones, beiges, and whites presents the eye with a constantly fluctuating surface. Oscillating between a perceived foreground, background, and middle space, there is a painterly glittering quality that emanates from areas of intense faceted color interaction, one that recedes into swathes of faded forms or solid patches of tonality (arguably functioning as a visual metaphor for memory, or at least of forgetting). The gouache painting, “A Year in a Day” (2010), employs the compositional device of a relatively ordered rectilinear background, rendered largely in yellows heightened with lines, squiggles, and rectangular forms in reds, blues, and whites. This tableau is posited against a centrally positioned stream of irregular forms, stripes, and cross-hatches that while retaining some similarity to the background, refuse to conform to its regulating geometries.
Alternately, the painting “The Knight Thought He Knew” (2008) utilizes a more traditional feeling of figure/ground, with a region of frenetic activity moving diagonally through more languid planes of color, and transitioning between ultramarine and yellow ochre. Similarly “The Great Divide” (2010), with its swirls and circlets of orange, red, and white that stand in contrast to an edifice of jagged blues set in soft pink, is a virtual cityscape of lush forms. In the canyon between the two emerges a “sky” of parchment tones and deep florid pinks.
The vite maritata drawings, on the other hand, are an organic manifestation of the New York artist’s connection to her adopted Tuscan home of Ulivello. Unlike the paintings, which display a finished and crisp quality, the drawings revel in their earthiness, both in subject matter and execution. Here, the grittiness of the field sketch is combined with a careful, ponderous quality in the use of Raditsa’s pencil technique to feel out various means of portraying the subject’s bark, shadows, spidery twigs, and tortured branches.
The Nature of Memory is poorly served by resorting to a vocabulary used to describe figurative imagery like “figure/ground.” Raditsa lays this trap herself by interspersing her gouache and casein paintings with drawings of the vite maritata grapevines. A more apt point of reference would be music, wherein rhythm, meter, and key can be varied within the firmer context of the key and time signature. Like Ravel or Schoenberg, Raditsa happily follows the rules of color and composition, knowing just the moment when to be scrappy and inconsistent and injecting an unsettling leitmotif of instability and anxiety into her otherwise comforting and radiant pieces.