New York artist Robert Reitzfeld has a devoted cult following, but his paintings are not nearly as well known as they ought to be. In this show he presents 39 recent small and medium-sized canvases that weave figurative elements into abstract designs. These vibrant works feature flatly painted fragments of cartoons and comic strip imagery that contrast with agitated brushwork in the abstract backgrounds. The paintings show a witty merger of Pop art idioms and post-painterly abstraction, like a mutant blend of John Wesley, Michael Bevilacqua and Gerhard Richter. In each of the exuberant compositions, Reitzfeld offers a unique balance of formalist elements and absurdist drama.
One of the most simple and striking canvases features a tall blue, wavy column set against a stark black background -- a detail of Marge Simpson's big hair seen against a night sky. A similarly minimalist composition shows a curving black form surrounded by a hot pink ground -- the familiar hairdo of Nancy, the comic strip star. Another standout is a painting of Dick Tracy's bright yellow hat, which seems to glow against bravura red and blue brushstrokes.
Some of the best works feature pairs and groups of eyes that punctuate richly textured backgrounds. In one painting, Little Orphan Annie's big round, oval eyes peer through a swirling mass of color, while in another, the eyes of Felix the Cat survey the scene.
"Robert Reitzfeld: New Work," Mar. 6-Mar. 30, 2001, at Anita Friedman, 980 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021.