Color represents

Still Life with Chocolate Bunny

“You know people talk about films bypassing the intellect and bypassing the thinking part of your brain and behaving in the way that memory does. And the very very best films have that way of . . . they impinge themselves upon your consciousness in a way where you are not entirely sure how (they do it.)”

–Mark Kermode, from his review of The Descendants


When I’m in New York next week, I’m hoping to stop at First Street Gallery to get a look at Erin Raedeke’s paintings. She hasn’t been with the gallery long, and hasn’t been out of school long either, yet her style seems fully realized. She merges a primary interest in color harmonies with the demands of representation and she has a touch that offers just enough detail, and no more, to create a distinct sense of light and form. A representative assortment of her work can be seen at (it’s lucky to have an uncommon moniker when shopping for uncluttered domain names now).  Her village scenes are wonderful, glimpses of quiet small-town streets in a hilly landscape somewhere in the northeast, maybe Pennsylvania, upstate New York, or the Berkshires. Yet this current solo show appears to focus on her still lifes, which offer views of horizontal surfaces covered with either wallpaper or wrapping paper, offering loosely repetitive patterns as a ground for unassuming objects from a child’s playroom or the detritus of a party. These paintings seem steeped in memory, without exactly evoking nostalgia–the soft light that bathes all her pastel colors seems to be aged and faded, shining into view from a previous decade, yet the objects themselves feel fresh and immediate: in one painting, she focuses on one last discarded bite from an Egg McMuffin, or one of its competitive clones. Her objects are quietly festive, or playful, and evocations of childhood seem to be the rule: ribbons, animal crackers, toys, crayon drawings, balloons, ornaments, tinsel, spiral notebooks, Easter candy, plastic Easter eggs, and jelly beans. (I think, given my obsession with them, I’m professionally required to admire anyone who paints jelly beans.)

What’s impressive though, is that she has borrowed and then advanced a technique from Janet Fish in her oversized still lifes, gazing down at objects on a surface, after arranging them in such a way that the pattern of color becomes the driving preoccupation of the work, rather than whatever “meaning” is associated with the objects being used as props. (A vague sense of narrative does keep working to draw together what’s there in the image, but it runs vaguely in the background and isn’t required to “make sense” of anything; her color has a formal coherence all its own.) By using this format from Fish, but cropping the image more severely than Fish did, she moves closer to abstraction. It’s representation which also has the feel of an “all-over” technique, where negative space has been eliminated and there’s really no relief from the field of color and shape she builds, no passages of white that offer a little room to breathe: it’s a brave way of betting on her ability to unify her typically diverse choice of colors. (The image at the top of the post offers more white than usual, which may be why I like it so much.) At times her images get a little busy, and some of her color veers toward tones that feel as if they were sampled from a Sherwin-Williams swatch, but then so did Stella’s, in his early work. Each painting remains an interesting and deeply felt exploration of how to arrange color in such a way that it seems to be applied for its own sake, yet in the end the image offers, as a bonus, a glimpse of the everyday world, as well.

2 Responses to “Color represents”

  1. Perceptual painters at 39th at represent

    […] David Jewell, Matt Klos, Aaron Lubric, Scott Noel, Andrew Patterson-Tutschka, Carolyn Pyfrom, Erin Raedeke, Brian Rego, Neil Riley, Peter VanDyck, Tom Walton, with […]

  2. Perceptual painters at 39th » Art Matters!

    […] David Jewell, Matt Klos, Aaron Lubric, Scott Noel, Andrew Patterson-Tutschka, Carolyn Pyfrom, Erin Raedeke, Brian Rego, Neil Riley, Peter VanDyck, Tom Walton, with […]