In this group of new paintings, Jennifer Reeves has expanded her format somewhat. The wood panels are larger than before (some up to 4 by 6 feet) and most are more abstract than previously, although landscape elements and suggestions of the figure continue to haunt the work. The aim of her art, I think, is toward an emotional impact achieved not only by image, but by the "stuff" of painting -- surface texture and nuances of color and gesture.
There is also a large element of humor in the work that stems from an ability to deliver the unexpected each time. Just as you're about to uncover her formula, some jarring element pops the bubble. In another curious development, she has added the word "text" to all of her titles, which previously consisted of the word "place" and a number in parentheses.
In Place (5-26) Text, for example, a blazing red background in the upper portion of the panel serves as a kind of stage set for the protruding blobs of purple paint and squeezed globs of garish orange pigment that are the main characters in this weird drama. There is a suggestion here of a fiery, apocalyptic landscape, but such a reading is thwarted by the strip of dark brown shag carpet pasted near the bottom. This incongruous addition could stand for either a burnt field of wheat or the floor of a tacky living room, depending, perhaps, on the viewer's state of mind.
My favorite work in the show, Place (5-25) Text, features an expanse of cerulean blue and a splash of darker blue in the upper background. It recalls a gorgeous blue sky containing a lone dark cloud. In the center against a field of colorful horizontal bands is a tall, gray spiral of paint that looks like it was squeezed from an icing bag used for cake decorating. An explosion of graphite marks stemming from the upper portion of this gray "figure" transforms the calming, pastoral scene into one of unnerving tension. With a few deft strokes of paint or graphite, Reeves, in each of these canvases, is able to shift emotional gears ranging from exuberance to terror.
Jennifer Reeves, Oct. 15-Nov. 14, 1998, at Stefan Stux Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, New York, N.Y 10011.