Nine fastidious and exuberant early 1970s paintings on plexiglass by Chicago-based artist Barbara Rossi provide a tantalizing taste of her little-known oeuvre. Her unique palette (fleshy peach, lavender, baby blue and celadon) and rampant figural distortions recall her Imagist peers, including Christina Ramberg, Karl Wirsum and Roger Brown. The paint is applied on the reverse side of the plexiglass panel and is suggestive of the human form, in the same ambiguous way Stuart Davis’s 1920s Eggbeater suggests a kitchen tool. Rossi applied delicate dots of paint to the surface of her panels, reminiscent of Chris Ofili’s embellishments 30 years later. Allusions to craft, outsider art, Sienese painting and tribal art are among the varied influences Rossi was evidently channeling. The show also includes nine works of graphite and colored pencil on paper, all from the late ’60s, of forms recalling the human head with a Surrealist twist. Rossi called these her “magic drawings.”
Pictured: Barbara Rossi, Rose Rock, 1972, acrylic on Plexiglas panel and frame, 27 3/4 by 23 3/4 inches. Courtesy the artist and Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago.