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Joseph Walentini
"Claire Seidl at Rosenberg + Kaufman Fine Art"
Abstract Art Online
March 28, 2004

Claire Seidl's art has been featured on these pages a number of times in the past. Our review of her 2003 exhibition at the Kristen Frederickson Gallery included her photography and painting. This past September we published an interview with her where she compared painting with photography and discussed her approach to each medium. Her current exhibition at Rosenberg + Kaufman Fine Art also features painting and photography which makes perfect sense given this gallery's dedication to both art forms. However, even more than her last exhibition, this show presents a seamless integration between the two mediums.

One of the first, most obvious similarities is form-strong enough in each to nearly render choice of medium beside the point. Compare Window Pane with Clothesline (Quilts) and notice how Seidl makes use of the grid in each. In the photograph, recognizable imagery breaks into high contrasts of light and shadow. But in her hands, how recognizable is that imagery? If you look carefully, you do see familiar elements but the comprehensive effect is an abstract grid defined by warm blacks and whites.

This is enough drama and interest so that narrative is not necessary. With Window Pane, the title implies narrative but the grid is the primary content. In both pieces, focus is blurred: in the photograph, by virtue of the light and shadows, and in the painting, by the paint handling. The binding factor for these two pieces, indeed between the two mediums in her work, is that Seidl approaches the same content, albeit in different ways. However, in her overall approach to art-making, Seidl pays meticulous attention to her materials. This is true whether layering paint and color on canvas or working with film and paper in the darkroom.

Now, what about the differences? Start with color, which the paintings
possess but the photographs do not. Color establishes the first and clearest difference between the two types of work. While it might be interesting to see how the photographs might translate to color, it is not only unnessary, it might give the photographs an unfair advantage over the paintings. Recognizable imagery is such a compelling force that color would push its importance that much more.

The variable warm contrasts of blacks, whites and the range between them in the photographs are so rich that they more than compensate for the lack of color. Texture is the next dividing line between the two mediums-the paintings possess it outright and, it has always been handled extremely well in Seidl's paintings. Through the texture, you become aware of the history of each painting and the struggle involved in its creation. Texture is present in the photographs but is virtual or "found" in the varied qualities of light and shadow.

Another interesting aspect to this work is how the concepts of realism and abstraction are often reversed. A good example of this is to compare the photograph Sparklers to the painting Array. The sparklers in the photograph create textures of captured light slicing diagonally across the picture plane. In Array, the texture is created in layers of modulated color that is at once subtle (within itself) and overt (within the context of the other forms). Here is the odd twist: the texture in the photograph is implicit while in the painting it is tangible.

On the other hand, the forms in the photograph are recognizable as the motion of sparkler through period of time while the forms in the painting are indefinable. Yet the guiding aesthetic remains the same. The point is that the so-called definitions and/or limitations of each medium are transcended in the interest of expressing Seidl's sensibility which cuts right to the content of the art.

This exhibition is very well presented, allowing a comfortable, indeed
engaging interplay between photography and painting. Both mediums present a wide variety of approaches while always preserving a solid sense of style. This comes as no surprise since Claire Seidl has always been an artist to follow wherever her art takes her. The last word is that this is one of the best shows of abstract art of the season (if not the best) and a must-see for anyone with an interest in painting, photography and abstraction.


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