‘Theresa Marchetta: Retreat’

As you look at the drippy, globular shapes on the canvases in "Theresa Marchetta: Retreat," your mind may get lost trying to figure out what's in front of you

Arts Review

Theresa Marchetta: Retreat

Women & Their Work, through Feb. 17

Front and center, the first painting welcomes you into the gallery with a compact yet strong and bright presence. The vivid color and black outlines make the piece look like cloisonné or stained glass. But what you're looking at isn't clear. In fact, it's quite difficult to find an image in any of the paintings. Drippy, globular shapes and puddles move down the frames, never really settling onto any ground level, except on that first painting, where it somehow seems upside-down. About halfway through the gallery, you may begin to notice some cohesive shapes typifying the human form. Another look around, and you will find them in all but two paintings. Now your mind can funnel an interpretation on those shapes, but as you move away, it isn't possible to discern a representational image from the outlying abstract outlines. That's okay, though. The text in the gallery claims that the artist, Theresa Marchetta, is intentionally playing with abstraction vs. representation. Considering this idea and Angela Fraleigh's show at Women & Their Work this time last year, I can't help but see this body of work as a deconstruction. The paint is breaking down an image into abstraction. With a conflict similar to that in Fraleigh's paintings, Marchetta's paintings satisfy the best when the abstract elements appear to populate the image by a larger percentage. The eighth and final painting is the most harmonious in the gallery. There are sections where the paint is marblized, swirled into looking like some of the abstract shapes. Those intricate branches of color balance out the large, flat hues. Although centrally located, you easily overlook the human form by what exciting things the paint is doing.

Katy O'Connor's paintings at Volitant Gallery's recent show share painterly concerns of form and space with Christopher Schade's paintings at D Berman Gallery. "Retreat" is the antithesis to both of those shows. They used paint to construct an image that the viewer could navigate. Marchetta begins with a recognizable image but uses the paint to undermine our perceptions. Instead of using convincing hues and defined forms, the paint is vibrant with nonsensical colors defined by amoebic boundaries. Your mind gets lost trying to figure out what's in front of you.

Usually, a conclusion offers closure to your journey, whether it is narrative or visual. The title of the show and noticing the handrails in some of the paintings allows for an association to some iteration of vacationing or tourist attractions. Discovering exactly what the image is based on destroys the mind's activities, though. The wonderfully elusive lines then congeal into logical, expected contours of what is represented. Instead of revealing the source imagery and sharing in my disappointing denouement, I invite you to get lost in the fantasy of crackling colors and swimming shapes.

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