This exhibition examines the paintings of Miami-based artist Lynne Golob Gelfman in relation to the Modernist tradition of the grid. Through repetition of both linear and geometric forms, the artist’s diverse series reveal her interest in late-modernist explorations of this rectilinear form, while concurrently evidencing her resistance to its formal rules and cool abstraction, through her references to non-western aesthetics and both the urban and natural environment of Miami.
While presenting examples from as early as 1968 when the artist was working in New York, to her first paintings produced after her move to Miami in 1972, the exhibition focuses primarily on paintings produced during the last two decades. Including works from PAMM’s collection, paintings from five distinct series are on view. The oil and sand series references the curling, linear metal work used in many working-class neighborhoods in Miami to secure windows and gates. Her between paintings transform the grid of chain-link fences, often used to aggressively divide urban spaces, into shimmering, transparent patterns that recall the movement of sunlight on the sea. The artist has lived and worked at various times in Colombia, where she has investigated indigenous textile and basket weaving techniques. Series that evidence these influences include lines, where invisible horizontal markings interact with applications of dripping paint that move vertically down the surface, creating a patterning that recall the irregular grids of textiles. The thru series additionally recalls weaving patterns, through its use of repeating triangle and square forms. The artist began this series in the 1970s but has returned to it in recent years, producing works at varying scales and formats. These paintings involve the application of paint on one side of the canvas and allowing it to seep through that canvas in irregular ways, with the final painting displaying this other side. The resulting effect, which mixes the color of the raw canvas with pale washes of paint, evokes the bleaching effects of tropical sunlight.
Gelfman’s early training involved exposure to late-modernist abstraction’s emphasis on non-representational forms, with value placed on painting self-consciously evidencing its own materiality as a two-dimensional, flat, rectilinear form. References to grids served as one extreme example of these interests, as seen in the work of early modernists such as Piet Mondrian or Kashmir Malevich, or later in the 1960s paintings of Agnes Martin or Sol Lewitt. The art historian Rosalind Krauss, in her influential essay Grids from 1978, explored this aesthetic trajectory, describing this form as “mythic,” in the way that it came to reference both painting’s materiality, while concurrently serving as symbol of a new, non-religious spirituality within Modernism. Gelfman’s early New York works display these influences in her use of serial, flat forms organized in grid patterns. These interests persisted with her move to Miami and within her works produced during the last two decades. Yet her grids have continually been contaminated, breaking with these formal rules of Modernism, through the artist’s everyday contexts, to the diverse cultures and environments, to the shifting light, patterns and rhythms, to which they habitually respond.