Reviews & Essays

“Barbara L. Bachner: An abstract painter for the postmodern age” by Ed McCormack

ARTSPEAK, Vol. XVII, No. 1, Sept. 1994, New York, NY

Only God has been declared dead more often than painting, yet gifted individuals continue to resurrect the art, as seen in the splendid solo show of Barbara L. Bachner, at TAI Gallery, Actor’s Institute, 48 West 21 Street, August 15 through September 15, with a reception for the artist on Thursday, September 8, from 6 to 8 PM.

Barbara L. Bachner, is truly an abstractionist for the postmodern age, in that she began as a figurative painter and has recently found effective ways to integrate recognizable elements, such as images of eyes within triangles or small rectangular landscapes, into her canvases, without in any way compromising their compositional dynamics. Included in this show are acrylic paintings and large lithographs, for which Bachner finds inspiration in Classical Art, Abstract Expressionism, and Surrealism, forging from such diverse sources her own powerful post-modern synthesis.

Bachner’s first decision when she begins a new work, painting or print, always involves color. Lately, she has been particularly partial to deep, visceral reds, as well as a rich variation of ochre that she refers to as a “pumpkin” hue. These two colors commingle most effectively in her boldly composed lithograph, “Into the Void, II,” with its shapely, lung like organic form flaring against large rectangular divisions. In other works, particularly major acrylic paintings such as “Elliptical Vision” and her monumental vertical diptych, “Calaf’s Choice,” the artist moves easily between recognizable imagery and abstract form, creating compelling visual contrasts that are complemented by her energetic paint handling.

Along with a vigorous gesturalism, Bachner employs rugged textures to lend her paintings a vital physicality, sometimes enhanced by the addition of pumice gel and stainless steel pigments, as seen in “Final Balance,” one other most tactile paintings, with its sensually varied surface and brooding silvery grey tones.

What makes Barbara L. Bachner’s canvases so exciting is that her sheer physical involvement renews one’s faith in painting as a viable postmodern field of endeavor, in which the very materiality of pigment can express a wide variety of deathless themes and important ideas.

—Ed McCormack

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