Rachel Klinghoffer: If You Like Piña Coladas
One River School Woodbury, curated by Lauren Powell
Through January 16, 2021
By ALFRED ROSENBLUTH, January 2021
Now on view at One River Woodbury through 16 January 2021, “If you Like Piña Coladas”, the solo show of Rachel Klinghoffer, features an economy of mixed media works executed throughout the grueling, now-past year of 2020. With optimism and gratitude as abiding qualities of her practiced philosophy (expressed in the fruits of her studio), Klinghoffer offers this series of works as a reminder of hope as we collectively continue through this extended gauntlet. Material tokens of Klinghoffer’s cherished experiences and relations constitute the implicit and explicit content of this work; their meaning and forms intersect with one another within fields of acrylics, spray paint and other standard artist materials, as we now see, entering the gallery space.
To one’s left hangs a series of six smaller works that blush between extremities of electric hots and colds, which sustain against a steady bass-line of appropriated brassieres. Sunsets with loved ones and the works of the Hudson Valley Romantics serve as inspiration to Klinghoffer, which inclines one to read these forms as mountain ranges reflecting the photons of impossible sunlight. Despite the fundamentally non-representational genre which Klinghoffer works within, there is some allowance for such representational themes to emerge, as will be more apparent in the show’s title piece. As female identity is another explicit theme in her work, the repeating trope of brassieres (provided by a collector), announces Klinghoffer’s lack of reticence on addressing this value.
The neon hues explored in these first six works condense into “Almighty Fire (Woman Of The Future) and “We’re Okay, We’re Fine”. Here, rising and setting fragments of panel resin and bra court one another while boasting their sandblasted surfaces. The color gradation polarizes one against the other while the brighter of the two asserts a primacy and spills ambient light atop the other.
Experimentation with cutting away canvas debuts in the next pair of works, “All I Want To Do Is Feel You” and “Blue Like We Used To”. This subtraction expresses a presence of loss that contrasts to Klinghoffer’s cumulative building up of materials from her life. Up to this point, fragmentation has been a generative act; the cutting up of a birthday balloon or honeymoon sombrero is an ironic revitalization of the past. Performing the act of cutting upon the very stage of Klinghoffer’s moodscapes serves to embody some sense of the past year’s losses. As this show’s theme is somewhat prescriptive, one can distill the interpretation of this sequence that hard-felt desire triggered by tangible loss can be tempered by the memory of what “used to” be.
The incised patch of absence expands to positively engulf the canvas in “The Terror Of Knowing What This World Is About”, nearly exposing the frame as raw bone in certain areas. To its right, hangs “The Stillness of Remembering What You Had”. Presence of canvas, plainly connects to stillness of memories, where terror cannot abide. The canvas enables Klinghoffer to dramatize heavier subjects than effectively permitted by her works’ characteristically bright aesthetic, adding a greater depth to her formal narrative.
Throughout we see Klinghoffer eschew the false ease of repeating herself; while interrelating with one another, each work limits itself to a specific set of variables. The prior two sets of works approach variations on loss and memory, “We’re Okay, We’re Fine” examines duality, and now coming to this show’s titular work,“If You Like Piña Coladas” and “Reprise, If You Like Piña Coladas”, a pair that could be another diptych, but more aptly, a study of the macro- and microcosmic. While all preceding groupings basically share the respective components, this one poses a different formal consideration: given the inherent singularity of Klinghoffer’s materials, to what extent can her works’ basic composition be replicated between scales? This rhetorical consideration highlights Klinghoffer’s choice to cast the halves of a single blue ribbon in the same role. By occupying the same relative points in the composition, each half allows the viewer to perceive the entirety of one work to either be an expansion or contraction of the other. Another essential mooring appears as a horizon line, which to Klinghoffer symbolizes forward facing optimism and pins an optic and symbolic continuity between the works. While this ribbon and horizon exemplify the two works’ homologous elements, variously-sized materials, such as a Ketubah and receipt from a Kosher Butcher’s shop are likewise present. Seen astride the works’ top left corners, the marriage contract and butcher’s receipt formally align as each other's proxy while posing an ironic connotation.
As with each of Klinghoffer’s pieces, the accompanying materials list for “Reprise, If You Like Piña Coladas” merits individual consideration:
print of sister and brother in-laws Ketubah I made for them, paintings by daughter, seashell from niece from Long Beach Island NJ, balloons from bringing son home from hospital when he was born, pieces of failed sculpture, shoes from daughter, old running shoes, caps from paint containers, piece of first place ribbon from best recovery from horseback riding accident from sleep away camp, Pantone color swabs from my mom, piece of the original odd couple poster from my mother in law, lace from husbands grandmother, piece of painting from graduate school, glitter, house paint, flashe, acrylic, spray paint, resin, panel
Being the longest materials list in the show, this above describes a comprehensive range of the memory and experience that Rachel assigns to her materials. For each of her works, the materials lists are essential to conveying the works’ full content to the viewer; the element of self-disclosure is essential to considering Klinghoffer’s work as a whole. If one can appreciate difference between a “piece of ribbon” and a “piece of ribbon from best recovery from horseback riding accident from sleep away camp” or the difference between a “color swab” and “color swab from my mom”, they can sense the enriching potential of interconnectedness which Rachel shares through the metaphoric autobiography her work.
There are two extremes on the continuum of Rachel Klinghoffer’s focus, which she skillfully avoids. On one end lies the overly sentimental while on the other end fawns excessive performativity; one’s capacity to sustain the tension of navigating the middle ground is usually equal to the depth of what they have to communicate. With artists like Rachel Klinghoffer, who genuinely share, rather than flaunt and from a place of deep abundance, it registers as act of generosity, which in this marked time, cannot go around enough. Her work’s fundamentally life-affirming message is a warm reminder that passive cynicism is often a film on shallow waters, and has little efficacy in the face of real problems. WM