In her recent exhibition of ten new paintings, Amy Sillman demonstrated that she continues to mine the edges of abstraction, meshing patches of color with bursts of chaotic line and weblike compositional scaffolding. Sillman balances dense passages with barely worked fields washed in pale color and often traversed by fragmented horizon lines that convey a sense of open space. Her paint handling--which may appear ferocious or lyrical, careful or slapdash--is invariably deft. She borrows painterly conventions associated with an experimental visual language that can be traced back to Paul Klee and the German Expressionists, and employs a free-form, childlike style of drawing that communicates spontaneity, immediacy, and a direct link to the unconscious.
Animating the mix are stick figures, or rather, parts thereof--an arm here, a couple of legs and feet there. In A Bird in the Hand (all works 2006), an absurdly extended green arm swoops across a faceted curtain of violet shadowed with khaki and olive, cupping a bird in its crudely rendered hand. It's a sweet moment suggestive of playfulness and hope pushed to the extreme (and reminiscent of a similar gesture in Picasso's Guernica, 1937). The longer one looks at the painting, the more birds materialize from dark skeins of brushwork.
The cartoonlike bodies that populate Sillman's paintings emerge along compositional fault lines, breaking out of rough edges or disappearing into thickets of brushstrokes. …