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    Complete archive, 1999-present


      Fence in Pat Passlof
       Courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery
    Unlocking the grid

    Painter Pat Passlof sets the bar in layers of robust color.


    Pat Passlof's paintings are largely about the 'stuff' of painting. That content — painting's materiality — is just the start of what will engage us, breast-fed as we are on the painterliness of the 1940's and the post-painterliness that followed. The conceptual underpinnings are there as a foundation, and largely underground, while the pigmented edifice absorbs our attention.

    Paintings by: Pat Passlof.
    February 10 - March 12, 2005

    Gallery: Elizabeth Harris
    529 W 20th St., 6th floor
    New York NY
    Hours: Tue-Fri: 10-6
    Phone: (212) 463-9666

    Passlof's formal means are processed, by willful stamina, to exude a vital presence. That presence strikes again and again throughout this exhibit as one of overwhelming health. It has been noted that Passlof enjoys a deep engagement with T'ai Chi, which is fed by her demand for balance. Balance is easily found in the consistent compositional device of vertical lines countering horizontals. And the equilibrium that Passlof pulls off is one charged with a sustained vitality, a quiet optimism, and an indomitable confidence that the course followed is difficult but a sound one.

    The most consistent device is drawing a set of three or four parallel lines with a large bristle brush to make a pictorial unit which is then copied next to it but rotated ninety-degrees. The repetition is unglamorous and simple, similar to the stacked compositions of Sean Scully. Unlike Scully, Passlof works her "bars" very freely. Evidence of the initial ground is often flickering through the many subsequent colors. This jangles our dissection of light and dark layers of paint, making any attempt to find her 'system' quite difficult. While a subtle grid controls most of the compositions, several strong works ("Eighth House # 6," for example) forgo this device, opting for a free marking that is robustly worked in overlaying colors, often with well-chosen cobalt blues and tawny ochres.

      Eighth House #13 in Pat Passlof
       Courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery
      Eighth House #13
    Passlof shows great strength in developing an overall field of color. The paintings seem at first to be about color pairs but then the numerous remnants of earlier layers peek through. We are facing a complex set of incidents that blend optically to a softened, muted sensation — on the order of pigments found in autumn leaves or plain farmlands or forgotten buildings. The skill in developing this field is based on her intuitive ability to fuse color choices with gesture and paint texture. The stiff handmade oil paint is as essential as her choice of brush, for the bars are scored with the lines of the brush hairs giving a strident, emotional subtext.

    We are facing a complex set of incidents that blend optically to a softened, muted sensation — on the order of pigments found in autumn leaves or plain farmlands or forgotten buildings.  

    How does one view, with postmodern eyes, a purely modernist work? If postmodernism is a democracy of formal styles then it encompasses modernism within its aesthetic. Passlof's authentically modernist work is a stylistic "monochrome" compared with works that tend toward innovative amalgams of references (Fiona Rae, for example). What pure modernism can do today is be the enemy of a flabby mentality that values theory over experience.

    It is interesting to place Passlof's work in context with two other exhibits of senior painters. Recently, an exhibit by octogenarian Carla Accardi evidenced the lifelong commitment to marking within a framing edge. Similarly, Pat Adams shows fifty years of tracking down the essential symbols of abstraction. The context of 'the long haul' offers an insight. Only huge stretches of time give us the ability to make visible a grand but previously imperceptible evolution.

    FEBRUARY 24, 2005

    Reader comments on Pat Passlof:

  • Passlof   from Stephen Beveridge, Mar 25, 2006
  • a friend   from renee wagner, Dec 24, 2009

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