Edith Isaac-Rose at Phyllis Kind
By Michael Amy
Edith Isaac-Rose makes no attempt to seduce the eye in her figurative drawings and paintings, seeking instead to provoke more visceral reactions. "Cronies," her recent exhibition at Phyllis Kind, included works from 1990 to 2004. Her subject matter, sometimes derived from newspaper photos and stories, is ugly, and, appropriately, Isaac-Rose renders it crudely. The works, intentionally filled with corrections, are heavy-handedly drawn and messily painted with the naivete of a beginning art student. Figures may be reduced to severely simplified silhouettes against a monochrome ground, modeling is practically nonexistent, and depicted motion tends to be stiff and choppy.
In one series, "The Last Last Supper," Isaac-Rose subjects the New Testament scene to a range of painterly permutations. Leonardo da Vinci's mural in Santa Maria delle Grazie depicts the moment following Christ's announcement that one of his disciples will betray him. It is this dramatic turn that Isaac-Rose chooses to pursue in The Last Last Supper #1 (acrylic on linen, 1998), in which three animals in business suitsa wolf, a jackal and a beargesture expressively as, snarling, each is clearly ready to betray the other. In using animals to refer to the follies of man, Isaac-Rose takes her place in a tradition stemming back to antiquity.
The Cronies (oil on canvas, 1990) depicts two men in black business suits, one older than the other, rushing oft toward the left with folders jammed beneath their arms. Heads and hands are painted a bright orange-red, and faces are practically featureless. The black field surrounding them serves as a moody foil. Reducing her palette dramatically, Isaac-Rose achieves a stark, powerful image.
In The Old Men Send the Young #2 (oil and oil stick on canvas, 1991), two men in suits, outlined in white against a gray and black ground, dispatch a male nude wearing a soldier's helmet into the darkness. These "suits" are clearly more than willing to sacrifice the powerless in order to achieve their goals. Here, the allusion is obviously to wara theme that is treated, too, in several drawings from "The War Series" (rubber stamp and gouache on paper, 1994), which were displayed nearby, and in a work titled Blind Obedience (mixed mediums on paper, 1996) that was shown in the lower gallery. In these works, Isaac-Rose clings to humanistic values that are increasingly under attack in an era when war is encouraged by big-business interests.
Copyright 2005 Brant Publications, Inc.
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