painting: Untitled (ICU)

"New York artist Robert Reitzfeld has a devoted cult following, but his paintings are not nearly as well known as they ought to be....The paintings show a witty merger of Pop art idioms and post-painterly abstraction, like a mutant blend of John Wesley, Michael Bevilacqua and Gerhard Richter. In each of the exuberant compositions, Reitzfeld offers a unique balance of formalist elements and absurdist drama."

from David Ebony's Top Ten @ Artnet

Robert Reitzfeld @ John Davis


At first, Robert Reitzfeld's distinctive melange of Ab Ex. Pop, Op and other postwar painting styles appears to be a send-up of the source material. Among the 25 recent paintings and works on paper in this show, a number of pieces, including Minnie Mouse, Olive. Che. Marilyn and others, feature cartoons and familiar Pop-art iconography, Reitzfeld's versions often appropriating passages from Warhol and Lichtenstein. But Reitzfeld's images are very often fragmented, with roughly torn edges in the paper pieces and colorful abstract passages of paint in the canvases obscuring and sometimes rearly obliterating the subjects. Rather than a nihilistic gesture, however, his distortions may be viewed as a kind of archeology of recent art. They also reveal a rather personal relationship with specific works that have inspired the veteran New York artist over the years.

1961, I Was There (2007), for instance, Is a painting featuring Donald Duck in his blue-and-white sailor suit—a fragment of Lichtenstein's 1961 painting Look, Mickey!, partly painted over with layered patches of red and pink acrylic as well as a sprinkling of glitter. The title of Reitzfeld's piece alludes to his attendance at a 1961 opening at New York's Sidney Janis Gallery, where Lichtenstein showed this seminal Pop work.

Reitzfeld is at his best here in several relatively large (about 36 inches square) intricate hard-edge compositions, such as TBT 56 (Marriage), 2006, and T8T 63 (2007). The latter contains another Lichtenstein reference: a detail of the Whitney Museum's 1973 Still Life with Crystal Bowl set in a crazy quilt of abstract patterns and swirling designs. Despite its high-tech look, this elaborate composition was created without the aid of computer programs. In TBT 56 (Marriage), one of the most striking works on view, the artist puts Warhol's Campbell's soup can through a similar kind of image shredder. Enmeshed in a colorful network of patterns that suggest late Matisse collages and Bridget Riley paintings, as well as certain 1980s Pattern and Decoration works, the soup can's trademark label appears to glow from within an infinite and elusive space.

—David Ebony
Art m America
September 2008


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