Rachel Rossin, Shelter of a Limping Substrate
Elliott Levenglick Gallery
40 East 75th Street, New York, NY
through June 30th, 2015
By JEFF GRUNTHANER, JUN. 2015
Exhibiting at Elliot Levenglick gallery through June 30th, the "virtual en plein air paintings" that compose New York-based Rachel Rossin's solo show function like acts of translation, if not transliteration. Titled "Shelter of a Limping Substrate," the six oil paintings on exhibit in Levenglick's single-room, Upper East Side space mingle pop-culture hermeticism-warped landscapes of floriated patterns - with a tried and true, almost codified application of Impressionistic and Expressionist technique.
A show of, yes, flowers, Rossin rendered her themes digitally, creating globular dispersions of peonies, pansies and lilies uncannily reminiscent of the Google Maps glitches collected by the programmer Peder Norrby. She then painted out these designs onto canvas. And while the actual relation between the digital originals and the tactilely painted copies is arguably more conceptual than mimetic—Rossin suggestively recreates her spectrally abstracted flowers against a pastel backdrop, rather than reproducing them in contextual detail—what's primarily beautiful about these works is their fidelity to the historic moment of 19th century en plein air painting.
"Shelter of a Limping Substrate" is a kind of backstabbing allusion to the boredom of landscape painting generally, and has a double-referential quality about it. On the one hand, to quote the press release, Rossin's paintings act as a mortar or substrate flourishing "the underlying layer in 3D imaging, the most fundamental surface upon which the rest is built." But they're also reflective, not like a dome of many-colored glass, but like the attentiveness that stares into a computer screen. The diffusion of light that might characterize a Monet is here a kind of luminous scrim in relation to which Rossin's pre-programmed flowers take on a decidedly ludic aspect.
The transformative effect of the way Rossin manipulates light is perhaps most manifest in her Soutinesque Pansies in Field (2015). Below the cartoonishly elongated flowers indicated by the title, you see what appear to be daisies that look like egg yokes trundling on a wave of carpet. This kind of interiority—both psychological and spatial—pervades the show, and is the upshot of a practice that doesn't look beyond the studio for new sources of light and inspiration, but toward a digitally constructed world where flowers and light virtually interweave.
An aura of symbolism surrounds the subject-matter Rossin has chosen to portray. One is reminded of Georgia O'Keefe and of the vaginal significance ascribed to flowers generally. There's a kind of heraldry at play in Rossin's titles. Lilies symbolize devotion; pansies, remembrance; peonies portend a happy marriage. But these literary connotations are tempered by the more formal qualities of the work. Rossin substantially translates images into paintings, while preserving the distinguishing marks characteristic of each. This is echoed in her themes; even in their wilding transformative state, the daisies that have become eggs still retain outwardly recognizable features.
The works that stem from Rossin's multimedia practice are fluxional recreations of a process where the natural becomes digital, only to become natural again. Her paintings toy with the familiar, while never falling into the trap of banality. There's a quickness, intelligence and humor to them that is very much the artist's own—notwithstanding her allusion to Impressionist and Expressionist precedents. In a world where everyone is flattening their faces against the semipermeable glass of a computer screen, searching out the same old commodified poisons, Rossin's virtual en plein air paintings provide an antidote. WM
Jeffrey Grunthaner is a writer & artist currently based in Berlin. Essays, articles, poems & reviews have appeared via BOMB, artnet News, The Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, Louffa Press, Drag City Books, & other venues. Recent curatorial projects include the reading & discussion series Conversations in Contemporary Poetics at Hauser & Wirth, West 22nd Street (NY).view all articles from this author