Berta Walker Gallery
208 Bradford Street
Selina Trieff: Transcending the Now: A Prophet Paints
Through July 15;/p>
Brenda Horowitz: Color in Form: Nature Power
Danielle Mailer: Form in Color: Animal Power
July 20 through August 5
The Berta Walker Gallery celebrates three of its finest woman artists with back-to-back shows from Selina Trieff, Brenda Horowitz and Danielle Mailer.
The Selina Trieff show is only up until July 15, but try to catch it. Trieff is best known for her minimally staged, theatrical paintings of sheathed and robed, quasi-religious figures huddled in pairs, small clusters or piercingly alone, sometimes with attendant sheep, pigs or dogs. The bulk of this work was recently pulled from storage in New York and has not been seen for some time, and while that alone makes it worthwhile, what I was not prepared for was the strength of the work: it’s more than good, it’s quietly stunning.
Aside from two paintings from the 1980s and one from 2008, most of the work is from the 1990s, composed of pairs of three-quarter-length figures, one behind the other locked in a brace of boney white hands that Trieff paints with expressive conviction. Holding, embracing, clasping and coupling, they’re painted with a firebrand conviction of assured line and strong pure color worked in and around fields of gold leaf that spill forth a radiant fire. The otherworldliness of these figures is manifest in their mask-like features and a detachment that inoculates us from ever truly knowing the nature of their conspiracy, while still allowing us to share in their intimacy.
At five-foot-square, “Guardian” (1984) and “Pilgrim with Pig” (1989) are knockouts. The former is a bucolic depiction of a full-length figure dressed in dark robes and flanked on either side by a pair of sheep, so that in Trieff’s hands, it crosses one’s mind to wonder who’s tending whom. The latter is a disarming image in near-silhouette of a seated pilgrim with a distinctive wide brimmed hat and a small pig to one side outlined in a ghostly green, all set against the most gorgeously spare abstract field of soft green and dirty yellow. Both have a refined classical grandeur that’s Trieff as her best. The gaze is direct, flat and unequivocally unnerving; ambiguity to the core, as we succumb to a certain reverence with a pensive heart and an uneasy smile on our lips.