August 8, 2012

Michael Abatemarco
July 20, 2012

Deborah Remington's work strikes the viewer with its graphic intensity. Dark grays, greens, and blacks contrast with lighter grays and whites with shapes, outlined heavily in purple, orange, or red tones. The immediate impression of the imagery is one of representationalism or of objectivity. Remington's work at David Richard Gallery consists of paintings, drawings, and lithographs. Among the earliest works in the show is a painting titled March, which Remington completed in 1964. While the majority of the work done in the period covered by this show (1964 to 1975) is consistent compositionally -- with shapes that resemble mirrors, windows, or portals centered on the canvases and appearing to open on exterior worlds of sky or empty space -- March is distinctive in that it has the feeling of a still life. Yet it is also the most painterly of the included abstractions, with less nuance to its gradations of colors than in her later work. What it shares with the others is Remington's oblique references to objects that never resolve themselves into anything definite.

Her paintings are remarkable. They have the boldness of Art Deco design and a structured and steady use of line and form that seems antithetic to the Abstract Expressionist tradition she came from, studying under Clyfford Still and Hassel Smith. Common to each work included at David Richard are juxtapositions between light and dark, outer and inner space. Primary consideration is given to these contrasts. Hard-edged outlining and subtle color transitions are conflated within a single composition.

Some of the imagery seems to reside within a defined space, like objects in a room, but the effect is illusory. Her Adelphi Series #17, for instance, looks like panes of glass within an amorphous form, blurring the line where one form ends and another begins. Remington achieved a rich density to the drawing with a smooth but thick application of pencil and crayon that lends the work an almost metallic appearance.

The lithographs were printed at Tamarind Institute in the mid-1970's. Two lithos, Kent and Velsuna, are representative of the prints in the show: they relate strongly to the larger paintings -- notably to Dorset, which shares some identical oval, mirror-like imagery -- and they take on an enigmatic mystique.

Remington continued to create similar works until late in her career. Here is an opportunity to see her unique aesthetic in its early days. While an exhibit including her more Abstract Expressionist works from the 1950s, showing her transition to the more streamlined imagery, or a retrospective, may have been more compelling, the gallery can't be faulted for focusing on this crucial period. It does have examples of her older work, but they are not included as part of this exhibit and are, simply, less interesting. David Richard has a knack for culling significant post-war material that isn't widely celebrated. Today, while much abstraction languishes in the shadow of the renewed interest in realism and surrealism, the gallery remains steadfast in promoting it. Remington, however, is one artist whose work approaches the boundary between the objective and nonobjective.

Michael Abatemarco
July 20, 2012

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