Joseph Wallentini
"Claire Seidl at Rosenberg + Kaufman"
Abstract Art Online
June 6, 2001

For those of you who love pure painterliness and color you won’t want to miss this, for Claire Seidl is clearly a master of both. The sensibility and tone of this exhibition are muted for the color but lively for the imagery. The contrast of these two dynamics is what determines the comprehensive effect and, to some extent, the content for this show. Seidl is able to create a unified sensibility and tone through her color while offering a wide variety of approach through the application of her paint.

The color stays consistently within a palette of deep and muted blues and greens to a mix of yellows, golds and browns. This is sober, ‘serious’, color of the sort that recalls the moody gothic quality found in a Singer-Sargent or Pinkham-Ryder canvas. Get a good close up look at it and notice how the artist has carefully constructed her color through several built up layers and overlappings.

The paint handling is a nicely mixed bag of techniques. A piece such as The Explanation recalls Seidl’s earlier work with its more textured application whereas the majority of the new work consists of smoother surfaces. In the later work the artist successfully combines a process-driven approach with the spontaneity of arbitrarily applied paint. This work also combines a very modern abstract esthetic with an old master approach to the medium. Seidl makes liberal use of glazes and keeps the paint thin.

As a result these pieces recall an older tradition of oil painting even as the non-object subject matter remains quite contemporary. Speaking of subject matter, two major themes are present in this work and each complements the other. The first is a static notion of ‘place’ and the second is the dynamic quality of motion. The former harkens the aforementioned Pinkham-Ryder’s subject matter, a general feeling of that artist’s landscapes only without the specifics of recognizable objects (or the half inch wide cracks in the paint!). Part of this is due to Seidl’s similar atmospheric palette. But you also recognize the connection to Ryder in the sense of depicted landscapes that feel deeply personal. These paintings seem to portray places like those found in dreams where the essence is present even as the tangible specifics are not.

The quality of motion and abstract quality of the forms immediately recalls Abstract Expressionism, though not exclusively so. There are also oblique suggestions of Van Gogh, (mostly in the earlier work) and an even stronger connection to the very late canvases of Monet, specifically at Giverny. Look at a painting like Haloes and you get a sense of looking at a detail of one of Monet’s Lily pad paintings. Are all the art historical references, director not, intentional? It hardly matters because in the end these are clearly Seidl’s own paintings and the references represent only one aspect of the work.

Actually, the latter becomes yet another element for understanding the content of this art. Seidl’s knowledge and overt application of an art historical sensibility to create her contemporary paintings almost smacks of Post-Modernism - sans the fashionable world-weary ennui and above-it-all-attitude, of course. This artist knows a great deal about art including its traditions. Her genius is found in applying that knowledge in such a way as to create something unique and sensual out of it. In many ways she has much in common with Cecily Kahn and Ying Li, two artists that were reviewed on these pages in May. The commonality is found in Seidl’s ability to create work with references to the painterly traditions that she obviously has a great deal of respect for. Unlike a conventional Post-Modernist, Claire Seidl creates beautiful paintings without dissing the historical milieu from which her work appears to derive so much of its vigor.