Suzan Frecon at David Zwirner Gallery

Installation view of Suzan Frecon’s paintings at David Zwirner Gallery; courtesy David Zwirner Gallery

* * *

Suzan Frecon’s paintings, handsomely crafted accretions of stark, if not quite Minimalist, forms, are every bit as august as they want to be. Diptychs of a sort—the canvases are stacked on top of, rather than next to, each other—Frecon’s pictures take inspiration from the more spiritually inclined offshoots of Modernist abstraction.The burnished, earthy palette recalls Rothko’s sonorous veils of oil paint, as do her compositional strategies. Frecon’s distilled shapes also bring to mind the mystical geometries of Hilma Af Klimt, Charmion Van Wiegand and Kazimir Malevich at his most severe.

Suzan Frecon’s paintings, handsomely crafted accretions of stark, if not quite Minimalist, forms, are every bit as august as they want to be. Diptychs of a sort—the canvases are stacked on top of, rather than next to, each other—Frecon’s pictures take inspiration from the more spiritually inclined offshoots of Modernist abstraction.The burnished, earthy palette recalls Rothko’s sonorous veils of oil paint, as do her compositional strategies. Frecon’s distilled shapes also bring to mind the mystical geometries of Hilma Af Klimt, Charmion Van Wiegand and Kazimir Malevich at his most severe.

Surface counts for a lot in Frecon’s art. Within the two or three shapes per image—an encompassing oval is the recurring pictorial anchor—there are shifts in patina and emphasis, from discreet blurs of pigment to areas that are more declarative in sheen. Frecon makes her own paints and varies their consistency and gloss with grave and fairly obvious pictorial purpose. When she pits an intensely matte area of blue against an enamel-like field of rust-red, you admire the artist’s painterly acumen even as you wonder if she isn’t making too much of the distinction.

Self-effacement is a must for any artist attempting to tap into otherworldly states of being—just ask Rothko or, better yet, Fra Angelico. Advertising spiritual aspirations isn’t the same thing as achieving them. When a painter-friend complained that Frecon’s surfaces reminded him a little too much of refrigerator doors, you realize how readily physicality can thwart engagement.

In that regard, Frecon is more an heir of Minimalism than we might want to admit: the paintings are brusque, blunt and almost willfully resistible. Their insistent lack of irony is welcome, but viewers seeking satori should look elsewhere in order to fulfill their metaphysical needs.

© 2010 Mario Naves

Originally published in September 28, 2010 edition of City Arts.

ADDENDA: A few years back, I had occasion to write about Frecon’s works-on-paper which, on the whole, made for a happier experience.

 

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: