Isca Greenfield-Sanders: Goff + Rosenthal

Article excerpt

What is striking about Isca Greenfield-Sanders's "Pinelawn Pools" series (all works 2006) is the sharp juxtaposition, in several of the paintings, of luminous blue swimming pool and dark surrounding shadow. Both are expansive, however self-contained the pool and uncontainable the shade. In Swimming Pool Landscape, the latter threatens to engulf the former, and with it the people around the pool. They're veritably "living on the edge," trapped between two pits, as it were, one neatly geometrical, the other abysmal and spreading like a cancer. The picture needs only a pendulum to turn it into something out of Edgar Allan Poe.

But of course gloom is not an acknowledged part of American suburban life. Why else move to the periphery except to escape the dreariness and anonymity of a city? Greenfield-Sanders's paintings are gothic horror tales in disguise: Their secret terror is the suburbs' inescapable ordinariness. For all their plainness--that is, their deceptively naive "realism" (each canvas is loosely based on an anonymous family photograph that has been computer-"enhanced" to emphasize its film-still-like formal properties)--they are powerfully emotional allegories of the banality and complacency of everyday life on the outskirts. The pool is the hollow center of mindless sociality, suggesting the shallowness and superficiality of it all--the Nothingness that the black void finally brings into the open. In Greenfield-Sanders's rendering, the suburbs are outwardly cozy and peaceful, but utterly empty at the core.

At least since Eric Fischl--who also came into his own with a pool picture (Sleepwalker, 1979, a scene of a boy masturbating in a wading pool)--"gothic" morbidity has moved out of Sherwood Anderson's Midwest and William Faulkner's South into the American mainstream. …