Now that the great painter Isca Greenfield-Sanders is officially represented by Haunch of Venison Gallery, she is unveiling a new series of irononostalgic paintings with the irrresistible subject of young boys playing soccer, aka "football." So prolific is Isca that she is dividing the new paintings between her first museum show, opening Oct. 16, 2010, at the Denver MCA and a solo show the following week at John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco.
I journeyed to Isca’ East Village studio to look over the football series the day before they shipped out to points West, and the first thing I said was, "These remind me of Degas’ horse racing paintings." Isca bussed me on the cheek in a grandaughterly fashion and said, "Charlie, that was my biggest influence. People look at these paintings and ask me about the World Cup. I know nothing about soccer. These paintings, like my previous work, come out of old photographs which I pick up in thrift shops and garage sales." I asked Isca if she had ever heard of the painter Duncan Hannah, a master of juvenilia (she had not) and then remarked that there are no actual soccer balls in any of the paintings, conveying the illusion that the uniformed urchins are chasing light.
"Pre-digitilization, amateur photographers cherished their film," Isca responded, "and the rolls of Kodachrome contained overexposures that were printed out routinely, anyway. You can see the bursts of light in each painting." Indeed, one marked characteristic of Isca’s practice is that each painting is slightly different in execution: a leg can be dab of paint or fully formed, a uniform number can be distinct or deeply blurred.
I asked Isca about the complexities of drawing the goalkeeper’s netting, being a former prep school goalkeeper myself. "This was my favorite task, Charlie. Notice the variation between distinct delineation, a wave like effect and the netting turning into a cloudlike blur." People being people and wishing to pin down identity, many who have seen these exquisite paintings have tried to pinpoint what schools and eras Isca’s players represent, yet Isca tells them that the uniforms are too indistinct to really know.
What is distinct is the anonymous joy an identification with fresh air and open fields which pass undiluted from the past into discarded photographs through Isca’s sympathetic hand to our own backwards-looking minds. The elite institutions savvy (or lucky) enough to exhibit this work can bow down, yet again to a master, Isca Greenfield-Sanders.
"Isca Greenfield-Sanders: Light Leaks," Oct. 15, 2010-Jan. 9, 2011, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, 1485 Delgany, Denver, Co. 80202
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).