Barbara Rossi: Poor Traits Sept.16-Jan.3, 2016 New Museum,NY

Rose Rock, 1972, Barbara Rossi
Rabbit Run and the Magic Amulets, 2014, Deborah Druick

Barbara Rossi’s exhibition at the New Museum in New York marks her first New York museum show, and it’s a can’t-miss show: a small but exceptional example of an artist who has not followed artistic trends but has formulated a unique system of drawing and painting. Rossi first exhibited her work in Chicago in the late 1960’s where she joined ranks with a group of artists who were known as the Chicago Imagists. As a group, the Imagists were influenced by outsider art, non-traditional art, comic books, pulp fiction and advertisements. One third of this group was comprised of women, which is highly unusual among movements in American Art in the twentieth century. Rossi and some of her colleagues, inspired by the reverse graphics painted on pinball machines, used acrylics to execute painstakingly precise paintings on the reverse side of plexiglass. In these paintings Rossi amasses different interlocking shapes and lines using a palette of peaches, lavender, pinks, pastel greens and pale blues in flat bodies of color. On the front side of the plexi she adorns the surface with “beaded constellations of dots which cast pointillist shadows through the transparent support on to the layer below”. The combination of flat areas on the one side and raised dots on the front is magical. These are abstract portraits containing surrealistic hints of body parts and extremities that playfully flow and morph. There is something ritualistic and ceremonial in these paintings and one can see the effect of Indian Minature art as an early influence on the artist’s development. This exhibition continues at the New Museum until January 3, 2016.

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