KAREN RIFAS: PER FORMS
Through Oct. 14th
Add a cup of Albers, a sprinkle of early Stella and a dash of Mondrian, and you might come up with something like Karen Rifas’ solo show, Per Forms, at Emerson Dorsch Gallery. It’s a yummy, happy place, great for escaping the realities of Trump World, if only for the time it takes you to digest the show in tranquility. Tranquility, however, was not a luxury one had at the opening, a virtual sea of bodies and cell phones, a bona fide nod to Karen Rifas’ thirty-plus years as an artist practicing and teaching in the good-old 305.
If you had not attended Rifas’ previous show at Meeting House, or read Hunter Braithwaite’s write-up of her 2014 show at Arevelo Gallery, you might have missed the transition from her iconic cord installations to these hard-edged, color field drawings. Entering the show is to sit back and take a ride on the yellow submarine. A sculptural installation and 25 drawings engulf the viewer with the same playfulness of the Sixties animated film of the same name. My suggestion; if you can view the show whilst listening to some of that decade’s psych-pop, even better. Restrictions of line, shape, color and scientific procedure have all been felicitously mined from hard edge post-war abstractionists only to be energized with the colors of the Internet era. Rifas has extracted the hues of luminescent screens and disco-tech signs that clutter our Instagram-engrossed schedules, and astutely combined them into lively compositions. Screen greens, emoji yellows and Facebook blues all form complementary compositions along the line, Rifas’s ultimate opponent and inamorata.
The visual rhythms continue with the intense greens and reds of an arrangement of vinyl squares radiating from center of the room. Within the squares are two matching, L-shaped benches, which unexpectedly cause a trippy double-take. These benches became the site for Rifas’s collaboration with the choreographer Dale Andree, who has created site-specific performance with her work for over a decade. At the performance, on the night of the opening, four dancers began their 30-minute immersive play by first darting around the room, slowly gravitating back toward center and ending by intertwining their bodies in geometric movements. First time dancer and local drummer, Pablo Pena, echoed the forms of the room by drumming the bench, hushing the noisy crowd with a simple beat. The performance ended when the dancers shoved one of the benches through a sea of onlookers, causing them to quickly move aside or get run over. It was at that moment I realized Rifas, too, was pushing our discriminations and concerns of timeliness aside. She doesn’t care if you understand a conceptual artist exploring formal painting in 2017. For her it’s still a worth-while endeavor. Viewers should be encouraged by the joy Rifas has brought to these paintings. It’s never too late in one’s art career to switch it up. Bravery and labor can produce the brightest of fruits.
Nicole Doran is a local multimedia artist who’s interest include conspiracies of all kinds, Hacker-history and abstract painting. She enjoys a glass of red wine with a good book and creating troller handles.