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Art review: Marcia Roberts at Rosamund Felsen Gallery

December 10, 2009 |  4:17 pm
400.MaR09_03 Paintings by Marcia Roberts have long been seductive perceptual snares — stealthy, subtle things, fields of shifting atmosphere and luminosity. For at least a decade, her work has claimed a strong affinity with the Light and Space phenomenology of Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Larry Bell. That connection still holds in a new series of paintings at Rosamund Felsen, but as aspiration more than achievement. The work is not Roberts' nuanced best.

In each of the canvases, which range from a modest 15-by-20 inches to a more commanding 5-by-7 feet, she stages a play of planes. The ground of each work is a single color — forest green, concrete gray, umber, red violet — lighter in the center and darkening toward the edges. Within this indeterminate space float additional painted planes (as few as three, as many as six), rendered to appear perpendicular to the picture plane, like slim, tilted panels. These are of a hue that sometimes neighbors the background color but just as often contrasts with it, cool tones often offsetting warm.

Some of the paintings also feature faint rays emanating from the center like cartoon lines of force, but these shorthand indicators of dynamism don't help the paintings come to life. The series feels stiff and heavy-handed, repetitive rather than expansive. Painted by hand as well as airbrushed, the surfaces too often have a grainy, manufactured feel. Their illusionism is convincing but inconsequential. The L.A.-based Roberts disappoints with this new work, which is uncharacteristically illustrational instead of ephemeral, all mechanics and no mystery.

– Leah Ollman

Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 828-8488, through Dec. 30. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.rosamundfelsen.com.

Image: Hunters Valley, 2008-09. Courtesy of Rosamund Felsen Gallery.

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