Winter White at Tria Gallery
December 10, 2009 – January 21, 2010
531 West 25th Street
New York City
The proprietors of Tria Gallery asked nine artists to make works inspired by the expression “winter white.” The term has been used for everything from women’s coats to Russian hamsters, but above all, arguably, it suggests White Christmases. Even in less jovial days of January, whiteness continues to command powerful associations, especially when the sun comes out and a snow-covered landscape sparkles with reflected light.
The result of Tria’s invitations is a glittering array of seven paintings, one inkjet print, and one sculpture, together suggesting snowbound crispness, harmony and quiet. Howard Kalish contributed the sculpture. His “Snowflake” is a globe with a diameter of two feet made of many small starlike semi-transparent acrylic rods. Andrew Millner, maker of the inkjet print, shows that white can work equally well as a complex design of many thread-like, interwoven lines, hand-drawn with a computer upon a background of dark, dark brown. Called Winter White (Wavehill Magnolia), this print depicts a large, ultra-delicate tree on a field six feet wide and four feet high.
Among the paintings, three are white-on-white abstracts, all acrylic on canvas. They are by Sue Contessa (Crystal), Serena Bocchino (From the White Series), and Alexandre Guillaume (Adrift). Contessa’s work was a little too regular for me, looking more like frosted glass than snow. Bocchino’s is better, with a grid of snowflake-like white daubs on a loosely-painted shiny white field. Guillaume’s is a marvel of gestural painting: a tall vertical (56 inches by 48 inches) that despite a broad horizontal band across the middle, ending in a vigorous thicket of splatters, nonetheless leaves most of the panel serenely matte-like. Maybe because Guillaume is a French name, I’m reminded of paintings made in the 1950s by Georges Mathieu, the French artist associated with tachisme or l’art informel, Parisian equivalent to first-generation abstract expressionism.
The remaining four paintings use other colors along with white. In the case of Jenny Nelson’s oil on canvas, Winter Sun, the transition is too abrupt, but Daniel Rosenbaum’s “Blizzard” is a large and powerful mixed-media painting on canvas (72 inches by 60 inches). It centers on a patterned image that looks vaguely like a piece of Minoan ceramic, tinted with pale rusts, greens, and blues, and seemingly half- buried amidst the surrounding drifts of snow. Here the darker colors work admirably with white, lending a sense of movement and dynamism to the composition.
Michela Martello’s White, a somewhat smaller mixed-media painting, boldly positions the head and shoulders of a beautiful white classical statue of a woman on one side of her 27 inch-by-29-inch canvas, against a tastefully mottled field of blues and browns. Is this woman a Greek goddess or a Renaissance angel? Two floating bird’s wings in the air next to her may offer a clue, while the single stenciled word, WHITE, in red, pays lip service to the theme of the show. Finally, quite possibly the best, and certainly the freest painting in the show, is Dream Life of Angels, by Francine Tint. A bold horizontal of oil and acrylic on canvas, measuring 30 inches by 78 inches, it swirls hither and yon with broad , sweeping bands of white and cream swooping up and around a field of pale brown, plus only a few splatters of ice blue for a contrast – a supremely elegant frosting to such a rich midwinter feast.