Art in Review: Rosy Keyser

The New York Times
April 11, 2008

Rosy Keyser’s first show of paintings and works on paper has a giddy, disheveled sprawl. Each work negotiates a slightly different truce between paint and something else: mica, sawdust or obsidian; twine may be added. Ms. Keyser is especially adept with sawdust, used straight, painted over or mixed with paint to contrast granular and smooth areas of color. Oddly rumpled or puckered, the canvas surfaces are almost objects in their own right.

Sometimes images coalesce. “As Above so Below” might almost be white flowers in a black vase by a very heavy-handed David Hockney. The relatively delicate “Folk Conjugation” implies a plant form; its touches of pink and blue-green are rare instances of brightness, although it’s all relative. In “Red Bird” a ladder of twine threaded through the canvas serves as the spine of a large patch of white slathered over black. Additional lengths of twine, either taut or limp, extend from the corners of this ladder. The effect is of a stretched hide, a surgery patient or a torture victim, but also a loom.

Ms. Keyser refers to her abject formalism as “Neo Brut” in the gallery’s news release. Julian Schnabel, Antonio Tapies, Sigmar Polke at his most alchemical, Robert Smithson and even old-school Abstract Expressionism are all a little too visibly part of her artistic DNA.

The show’s apocalyptic title, “Rivers Burn and Run Backward,” derives from the best line in “New Madrid,” a song by the now dispersed country-rock band Uncle Tupelo, with some rather large debts of its own, primarily to the Grateful Dead. But this show is a good, spirited start.

ROBERTA SMITH