Magazine article Artforum International

Laura Newman. (Reviews)

Magazine article Artforum International

Laura Newman. (Reviews)

Article excerpt

BELLWETHER

Despite the best efforts of abstract painters to establish a surface devoid of any reference to the world, most viewers still tend to look for imagery "hidden" in nonrepresentational canvases. Abstract compositions are often treated as Rorschach blots to be deciphered, even "finished," by the viewer, rather than as something wholly composed by the painter. Laura Newman is willing to split the difference: Her paintings cater to both image-hungry viewers and connoisseurs of pure abstraction.

One of the works in Newman's recent show is a baby blue field bracketed by yellow trapezoids. The blue is marked now and then by white lines like Lucio Fontana slices through the canvas-or wispy clouds. The yellow forms almost immediately register as doors standing open against the sky, an illusion Newman bolsters by titling the work Yellow Doors, 2002. In a nearby painting two rectangles and a triangle meet below another field of blue, here broken up by a craquelure of black lines and horizontal dashes of white. Again the painting's title confirms the viewer s suspicions: Skywriting, 2000, evidently includes clouds and part of a chimneyed roof. A third blue work really does persistently look like an abstract composition until you learn the title, at which point Road Trip, 2001, with its white triangle within a beige rectangle at the bottom, seems to show the quintessential schematic representation of a straightaway leading into the distance, the schoolbook illustration of perspective.

The tug-of-war between abstraction and representation works, however, since Newman's paintings are filled with art-historical allusions, particularly to late-twentieth-century painting. …

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