Sabine Friesicke at Robert Steele
Art in America, Oct, 2004 by Michael Amy
"Light in the Basement," Sabine Friesicke's exhibition at Robert Steele Gallery, included 11 square paintings in acrylic on canvas, 64 by 64 inches each, and three small acrylic drawings on paper (all works except one 2003). These abstract compositions are part of an ongoing series she has been working on for years.
Friesicke's method of production is straightforward. She first paints the ground of her picture in one color. Next, she draws horizontal bands freehand across the entire width of the picture in a different color. Finally, she allows a more liquid acrylic of the same color as the bands to run at narrow intervals down the height of the canvas, thereby creating irregular streaks that do not always reach the bottom of the picture. The somewhat dense edges of these streaks frame lightly transparent spines at their centers.
Part of the appeal of these paintings lies in the minute variations between the hand-drawn bands and free-running streaks. The tonal contrasts that arise when a streak crosses over a band cause the grid to flicker. The lines frame small irregular rectangles in the ground color; this difference in hue increases the subtle glow and pulse of the picture.
Friesicke is interested in repetition and consequently in seriality. Her studio is a laboratory in which she experiments with various color combinations, degrees of liquidness, and/or tighter or looser intervals between wider or narrower bands and streaks. She is captivated by the modernist grid, surface/depth relations and the imperfect effects that can be obtained by techniques that embrace accident. Her abstractions are silent testimony to the fact that these formal problems have still not been exhausted. Her work obviously brings to mind the grids of Agnes Martin, as well as the linear networks of Terry Winters and even the painted tesserae of Shirley Goldfarb--though without the density of facture found in works by Winters and Goldfarb.
Closely examining Friesicke's paintings reveals the subtle variations among them. Tag Traum consists of a light pink ground overlaid with a vibrating grid of silver, colors that evoke (as the title suggests) pleasant daydreams. Now, NYC, with its metallic pinkish gray horizontal bands placed one against the other beneath a downpour of the vertical streaks, suggests a view of an International Style skyscraper perceived through a scrim of rain. While several paintings seemed a little too subdued and thin, that could have been a result of the lighting. Friesicke's nonhierarchical, allover compositions express her continuing faith in the modernist abstract painting of old. --Michael Amy
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