Joan Snyder: A Painting Survey, 1969–2005

Joan Snyder piles texture and color on top of texture and color in her powerful paintings.

Joan Snyder's incandescent expressionist paintings have long been 'œrelegated to the subcategory of 'women's art,'' said Ariella Budick in Newsday. Snyder came of age in the 1970s, when other artists, especially female ones, were reacting to the harsh austerity of minimalism and the macho posturing of abstract expressionism. But as this focused show of 30-odd paintings makes clear, 'œher concerns are universal and her talent luminous.' She conveys rage and sensuality, exultation and melancholy, in equal measure. One early piece, Lines and Strokes (1969), sums up and predicts her career. Fat mauve and apricot brush strokes seep across the canvas, full of a 'œdrive to communicate feeling.'

Snyder is simply 'œone of the strongest abstract painters working today,' said Lance Esplund in The New York Sun. She has an intuitive feel for color and texture. But she is able to balance her lyrical, confessional paintings with a rougher, more elemental side, affixing organic materials—mud, herbs, silk, straw—to the canvas and running her brushes over them. The small, green-and-orange Beanfield With Music for Molly (1984) is 'œas intimate as a love letter,' while plastered on Oratorio (1997) are nails, a sunflower, and zebra stripes across 10 feet of canvas. Snyder has talked often about the touchstones of some of her more politically charged works: the Holocaust, AIDS, women's and gay rights, Sept. 11. But her 'œbest paintings are powerful not because of their subjects, but in spite of them.' A slash of red can look like a wound that belongs to anyone.

The maxim 'œmore is more' pretty much defines her art, said Michael Kimmelman in The New York Times. Snyder is willing to risk everything for a noble failure. She piles stuff on: color, found objects, emotions, volatile subject matter. At times, it does fail. Women in Camps (1988), a collage of text, photographs, and sticks, is 'œwincingly maudlin.' But when she succeeds, she does so on an operatic scale, beyond the timid ambitions of many artists today. The richly colored Perpetuo (2004) is an 'œecstatic image of life overflowing.'

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