Rosy Keyser: Medusa Pie Country


Peter Blum - New York

By Stephanie Buhmann

In her latest New York solo exhibition Rosy Keyser continued her quest to challenge the conventions of painting. This pertained primarily to shape and material content. Her new works are increasingly large, confrontational in their immediacy and determined to address notions of physicality. These compositions extend beyond rectangular confines and frequently push surface textures into sculptural territory. With few exceptions, their palette is predominantly brooding, earthy and embracive of the dark. They dismiss anything decorative in favor of a clear proposition: they want to be considered in their entirety. However, upon close observation they reveal a captivating sense of playfulness underneath the initial layer of sobriety.

Some of the qualities found in Keyser’s work find a likeminded reflection in the oeuvres of Blinky Palermo or the contemporary James Hyde, for example. While certainly not a pioneer, Keyser has chosen a path that remains radical. She is a painter; and yet, her explorations and constructions increasingly explore the nature of the medium by means of contrast and differentiation. It is the juxtaposition of angles and voids that describes the landscape of her abstractions instead of the traditional harmonious interplay of color and form. It is apparent that Keyser is not focused on creating works that easily please or appease our sense of stability. Instead, she is interested in dynamics. She commits to works that reveal a rough spontaneity but are also self-reliant.

As a group, the paintings on view offered a coherent mixture of big gestures and fine-tuned details. They were created simultaneously in dialogue, and it is their continuing calling and responding to each other that made for a satisfying visual through line. Whereas broad strokes and lush gestures allow the compositions to appear somewhat raw, delicate nuances in the form of wire drawings, for example, add a finer contemplation. In fact, it is the sophisticated interplay of improvisation and editorial intervention that sparks the characteristic rhythm in these works. Metaphorically, it illustrates the artist’s belief that art is always being made-consciously but also in instances often understood as non-artistic. Keyser’s work combines both conscious and unconscious moments, searching for poetry where these states overlap and then diffuse.

Despite being evocative of both mythic and feminine forces, the exhibition title of “Medusa Pie Country” harkens back to something rather concrete. It was in Medusa in Upstate New York, where Keyser acquired many of the materials used in this new body of work. Here, rusted steel fragments, beer cans, sawdust and tarp are reused and imprinted by a rough mono-printing process, transforming Keyser’s work into an energized synthesis of unlike materials and textures. Meanwhile, this wild assemblage provides a totemic quality. Keyser’s works can be faintly evocative of ritualistic African sculptures pierced with nails and coins, or of the tabletop collages by Dieter Roth. Although Keyser is pursuing a path much more abstract, her works call on various senses. They engage us visually, but also make us wonder how these surfaces could be experienced by touch or if they could even initiate sound.

(February 28 - April 20, 2013)


Stephanie Buhmann is a contributing editor at Her essays and art reviews have been published internationally, including byKunst Bulletin, Sculpture Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Art on Paper, Art Collector and Art Lies, among others. She also has a regular art column in Chelsea Now. She is currently working on a series of interviews with contemporary artists based in New York.