As an antidote to the circus-like atmosphere of so many contemporary art exhibitions these days, it's thrilling to encounter a really thoughtful display of quiet paintings by Sarah Plimpton. For the past 30 years the New York artist has been developing a vocabulary of abstract forms, literally, by representing letters of the alphabet with the geometric simplicity of Suprematist design.
Aerial View, for example, shows a shape of a backwards letter "B" painted in tones of purplish gray. It seems to hover over a desert landscape. Green Triangle shows a "q" shape in purple-brown butted against a soft green patch hovering in a neutral gray cloud. The brightest and most suggestive work is Blue Cleft, which features two interlocking components against a yellow ground punctuated by four short black markings. In Plimpton's best canvases, deft brushwork and expert manipulation of forms allow an almost subliminal drama to unfold, as her gently modulated structures vibrate with an unforced tension.
Sarah Plimpton, Nov. 4-Nov. 30, 1999, at June Kelly, 591 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10012.