In a sea of luke-warm exhibitions that flooded the West Loop this past month, one seemed to stand out as the obvious and desperately needed temperature shift. Judith Geichman’s new paintings and works on paper displayed at Carrie Secrist Gallery allowed me to sink my teeth into work oozing with the aura of being made.
The black and white paintings appeared to be made with a keen awareness for limitations; each was painted on the floor in black and natural white on a square canvas, identically scaled (except for one smaller black and beige work towards the back of the gallery), and seemingly executed with identical tools—one of which was a zigzag cut out plastic shovel from Target, manipulated by the artist to achieve a rake-like texture. Despite the laundry list of restrictions, Geichman succeeded in creating an installation where each painting stood entirely on its own and contained its own set of formal properties. Variation in space, texture, speed, contrast, and energy kept me aware of how un-formulaic the paintings were, despite their formal set of parameters. Some works came across full of color, others achieved a high level of mood and atmosphere, and a few challenged space by allowing a flattened, pattern-like texture to take over the composition.
The abstract, expressionistic paintings could be perceived as having a direct relationship with the masculine abstract expressionists of the 1950’s, but I think to assume such a lineage would be a premature and perhaps inaccurate judgment. Instead I read the work first as a practice in intimate investigation with materials, not intending to point to any other moment in art history except for the artist’s own—these paintings felt uniquely conjured and performed by Geichman, alone in her studio, struggling to find resolve in each piece as its own, individual entity.
I felt the works on paper in the adjoining gallery worked successfully as one, clean, installation on the wall—I had difficulty singling individual drawings out as better or worse than others. I thought each worked in relationship to both their immediate neighbor and to the entire wall as a whole. The wall works also succeeded in acting as their own work, as opposed to being seen as preliminary drawings for the paintings on view.
At Geichman’s gallery talk in conversation with Dana Degiulio, it was made abundantly clear that the artist’s concerns were to allow the work to grow organically, and to keep challenging herself to create engaging work that pushed forward and against any formula. She aims to do this by changing up her approach to painting when work begins to feel boring or static in the studio. When asked (by a member of the audience) if she was bored with this process and making plans to delve into a new project, she politely hinted at her next body of work having an unknown future—but a future no less.