Reviews

Betsy Kaufman at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

New York

Kaufman, A Story of Red, 2013, acrylic on wood panels, 39 units. COURTESY OF LESLIE TONKONOW ARTWORKS + PROJECTS

Kaufman, A Story of Red, 2013, acrylic on wood panels, 39 units.

COURTESY OF LESLIE TONKONOW ARTWORKS + PROJECTS

Painter Betsy Kaufman achieved something special in this exhibition: she imbued pure abstraction and hard-edged geometric forms with strong emotion and a kind of introspective narrative.

Kaufman’s triptychs and small individual paintings in acrylic on wood panel (all untitled and made in 2013) were at once minimal and expressive. Each piece was square, or nearly so, and none measured more than 19 inches on its longest side. Overlapping polygons shimmered with brushstrokes of varying thickness. With the overall sense of movement in the paintings, the forms, such as the hazy blue parallelograms and crystalline portal-like shapes, might be seen as caught in the act of solidifying, or turning into gas.

The individual paintings were bit players in a dramatic display dominated by A Story of Red (2013), a masterwork consisting of 39 panels, each containing a squarish form in a variety of reds, with slices of white background showing just at the edges. Deep reds and pale near-pinks—vibrant lipstick hues and lively blood tones—were arranged on a gray wall like architectural elements or book pages. It was as if the shapes, with their sharp angles and handsome surfaces, were in conversation with one another and with us, speaking the same language but expressing different thoughts.

The panels themselves varied in thickness from one to the next, adding to the vibrant effects of the pigments as well as to the clever exploration of dimensions, from three to two and back again. At once ordered and random, the arrangement of panels seemed made up of refined puzzle pieces ready at any moment to come together and reveal life’s answers.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 97.

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