Rosy Keyser at Peter Blum Chelsea

December 1, 2009

Rosy Keyser is a romantic, and her turbulent esthetic, as represented in this stunning show of mixed-media work and sculpture (all 2009), may be summed up as the artistic battle with the horrible. The horrible for Keyser is the tempestuous chaos of imagination, against which she pits her will to form. In every piece here that conflict was in evidence, not resolved but held in suspension.

Three related works exemplified this clash: Heaven and Other Poems, The Moon Ate Me, and The Ray. Throughout, violence is coupled with delicacy, abhorrence with delight. Each needs the other. In The Ray, Keyser creates with fine filament fringes a veil of form imposed over disorder--a construction that simultaneously grows and falls apart before our eyes.

Rush and Welter is a two-paneled work, in effect a flirtation with the void. Its ominous blackness threatens to engulf or depress the viewer, but once again Keyser asserts order over brooding energy. The beast is in his cage, but he is there nevertheless. This large (80-by-136-inch) work is a manifesto without words, harking back to mid-20th-century gesturalism.

The three free-standing sculptures in the show seemed at first glance a digression from Keyser's storm-and-stress work. But in fact, they each constituted a three-dimensional metaphor for the stasis achieved by fixing form over anarchy. Eastfacing, Downwind is a chain-link pennant blown by invisible winds; Shooting at Weathervanes captures the idea of energy contained; and Echo Chamber, acting as a mediator for all the works in the show, is a circle that also stands as a spinning lasso of continuous processes.

Keyser's work is always arresting, but this exhibition, so large and varied in media yet so stylistically unified, showed the full extant of the works' artistic power.

                                                                                        -Alfred Mac Adam