Erin Cone: New Paintings
Cone's portraits of women, rendered as planes of color and shadow, are revelations of composition and rendering
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., April 18, 2008
'Erin Cone: New Paintings'
Wally Workman Gallery, through April 30
Keratotomy, angioplasty. The mathematical precision of lasers is often used to affect improvements to the eye, to the heart.
People walking around – once blind but now can see, once afflicted by a faulty ticker but now like Secretariat with their cardiac vigor – enjoying what life has to offer years beyond when they otherwise might have been food for worms. One of these people walks into the Wally Workman Gallery to see what they can see.
On the walls: new paintings by Erin Cone, Lubbock native, UT grad, current resident of Santa Fe, N.M.
Portraits of women, rendered as planes of color and overlapping shadows yet instantly recognizable as women, as particular women, often in some simple yet stunning equation of balance with abstract shapes: a cube here, a rectangle there: an anchor, a catalyst. This is divine precision, each painting a revelation of composition and rendering.
Our person living on time borrowed with technology moves from room to room within the Workman Gallery, enhanced pupils drinking in the light, marveling at the precision. It's not just the paintings themselves; it's the way in which they've been arranged in the elegantly spare surroundings, each portrait in a visual conversation with the others. On one wall, a pair called Gossip I and Gossip II: Each shows a woman with one hand partially obscuring her mouth, muting and directing what must be whispered speech, each gossip isolated in a field of color. Between these two, another portrait, Transition, a woman whose back is turned – as if to the rumors insinuated on either side of her.
The gallery visitor continues through the space, entranced, staring openly at these flat, captured women and what they've wrought, via Cone's artistry, from the visible spectrum. Here is a portrait called Prescient, the woman's face obscured from the eyes upward by a solid block of color; it's eerie, unsettling, like a portrait of some precog from the worlds of Philip K. Dick. There, on the south wall, is a series of smaller paintings of pairs of hands arranged to present a variety of aspects: Reveal, Conceal, Shelter, Shift. And, everywhere, in the artist's meticulous acrylics, representations of humanity pared to its graphic essentials and framed within an austere matrix of shade and symmetry.
Our miracle of medicine will linger before departing the gallery this day, will linger long among these precisions of Cone that, over time, affect improvements to the eye, to the heart.