PLAY IT AS IT LAYS
JULY - SEPTEMBER
Reception for the Artist
Friday, July 7th, 5-8pm
Play It As It Lays
The walls of abstract artist Nola Zirin’s studio were ablaze with color when I saw them in late May. May. Painting followed painting in a triumphant processional, several just completed. A preview of sorts for this exhibition, it displayed a range of works from over a decade of her production, with the emphasis on the past few years. I thought of Courbet’s The Painter’s Studio: A Real Allegory Summing Up Seven Years of My Life as an Artist or Velázquez’s Las Meninas, two masterpieces of Western European art in which the subject is painting about painting and the place where they were conceived and executed, whatever else they are about. Zirin’s paintings are also paintings about paintings, among other readings and, if less directly, about the artist’s studio, critical to the practice of most artists, even those who work primarily from their computers. It is a space valued perhaps more by women since a room of our own and all that it implies often remains aspirational, even now, and Zirin does not take her spacious studio for granted. She claims it as her sanctuary, its “stillness” essential to her process, and entering it is to step into another world, another life, she said.
Zirin is one of those fortunate beings who always knew what she wanted to do and even more fortunate in the encouragement she received to pursue her desires. She began painting as a child and has never stopped, evolving a dazzling body of work with a lexicon of distinctive shapes and colors, one series launching the next throughout the many decades of her long, prolific career. I doubt if she has ever had painter’s block, producing paintings like an apple tree produces apples, as it has been said of Courbet.
Her paintings are often multipaneled, a format that she gravitates towards, no doubt because of its structural expandability. Here, as in other multipart works, she might alternate canvas and wood panels and vary the thickness of the supports so that the surface is not presented as a uniform plane but more architecturally, or as a kind of bas-relief. She might also add cut- out shapes that seem to be painted images, or the reverse, revealed only after close inspec- tion—which the work demands—a trompe l’oeil that actively engages the viewer and asks most likely the oldest query about a work of art: what is real and what is illusion?
Her scale is also variable, from small to outsized and beyond. The multipaneled works often suggest a frieze or a cinematic roll as in Syncopation (2019), one of the highlights of this grouping. Unspooling as if frame by frame, its vertical sections consist of many widths, its bold and sombre colors advance and recede, heightening the dramatic intensity, its dissonant rhythms almost audible. Such formatting helps her organize the infinitely adaptable and in- ventive abundance of her ideas. There is always a lot going on in a Zirin painting, from grids, stripes, hard-edged lines, circles, and other less regular geometric shapes to gestural brushwork, softer outlines, layerings, drips, and much more. Paintings have their own imperatives and she has always been attentive to them as she meticulously constructs her work, knowing when to take control of the process and when to let go: “things happen when you know when to let go; it keeps the painting alive.” It is a little like walking a tightrope, so much depending upon skill, experience—and instinct.
In her recent works, the balance between the illusions of paint and the physicality of materials have shifted, enough so that she thinks of these works as sculptural, dimensional. Her line/gestural ratio also seems to be leaning toward the latter, and her color scheme has been recalibrated, but these kinds of adjustments are constant and a matter of degree, integral to her overall process.
Color is Zirin’s particular, astonishing strength and she is unhesitating in its deployment: for instance, the drop-down slash of pop-off-the-wall red in Mahoe Bay’s (2023) which hijacks the painting. In recent works, the hues might be full spectrum but artificial, destabilizing, summoning up an industrialized domain and human production rather than colors that make you think of nature, such as Mahoe’s Bay, Black Smoke in Blue Air (2023)--which incorporates a sliver of real space to separate it into two unequal sections, something she interjects from time to time—or Keep Moving On (2022) with its alternating of primary colored bands and tangled black lines that points toward new monochromatic works such as Still Counting (2023), a geometric landscape that has all the color leached out of it, leaving us a faintly omi- nous, grey-scale sci-fi world to contemplate.
Another characteristic of her new work is its luminosity, her grounds glowing with a soft, satiny gold or silver sheen in canvases such as For Ron Carter (2023). These paintings are more ambiguous, visionary, many of the forms suggesting moons, planetary bodies, spheres of all sorts, appearing, disappearing, subtly modulated, the lustrous surface rich with spills of paint. These are not the urban landscapes that comprise much of her output such as Light Between the Building (2020) but more imagined, metaphysical spaces, evoking the realm of the Futurists, Surrealists, or the spiritual.
One of the great pleasures in looking at Zirin’s work comes from a mutability in which we can always see something more, her imagery in flux, interpretations changeable. Its emphasis on perceptual conundrums and looking attentively also tells us something about how to look at and respond to the world. But perhaps most reassuring is the confidence her work radiates, generated by her deep belief that painting and art matter, in service to the civilizing, better angels of our humanity. In an era of increasing uncertainty and shattered values, that reas- surance is needed more than ever.
Nola Zirin is a New York native and maintains a studio in Oyster Bay, New York. She received a bachelor's degreefrom New York University, where she studied painting with Milton Resnick and George Ortman. She also studied printmaking with Bob Blackburn and Donn Steward. Her work has been shown in many one person and group shows throughout the United States and abroad, most recently with her 8th solo exhibition at June Kelly Gallery in New York City. She is represented in numerous public and corporate collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, the National Museum of Taiwan and the Library of Congress. Zirin's shows have been reviewed in Artnews (Cynthia Nadelman), Art in America (Cathy Lebowitz), Art News (Ruth Bass), Philadelphia Inquire (Miriam Seidel), The New York TImes (Helen Harrison and Phylis Braff) among others. Zirin is a member of the American Abstract Artist Association.
2023 Mosaic Artspace, Nola Zirin, Play it As it Lays
2022 Nola Zirin, New Paintings, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2018 Nola Zirin, The Art Show, Park Avenue Armory, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2017 Enigma: August Muth & Nola Zirin, Ota Contemporary Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
2017 Nola Zirin, Orbs and Angles, New Paintings, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2015 Nola Zirin, Simon Gallery, Morristown, New Jersey
2013-14 Nola Zirin, Stardust, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2012 Nola Zirin, Lobby Gallery Show, 780 3rd Ave (near the UN) NYC curated by Dawn Lee
2010 Recent Paintings and Works on Paper, Simon Gallery, Morristown, New Jersey
2009 Virtual Vistas: Paintings and Drawings, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2007 New Paintings, Simon Gallery, Morristown, New Jersey
2006 Recent Paintings, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2005 Collection Insights, curated by Nada Makdisi, The Permanent Collection, Islip Art Museum, East Islip, New York
2005 Recent Paintings, Simon Galley, Morristown, New Jersey
2003 Nola Zirin: Seeing the Light, June Kelly Gallery, New York, catalogue Seeing the Light, Simon Gallery, Morristown, New Jersey
2000 Urban Abstraction, June Kelly Gallery, New York; catalogue
1997 Recent Paintings, June Kelly Gallery, New York Recent Work, Heckscher Museum of Art at Bryant Library, Roslyn, New York
1994 Paintings, June Kelly Gallery, New York
1991 Paintings & Assemblage, June Kelly Gallery, New York
Selected Public Collections
Andromeda Advantage, Long Island City, NY
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Art in Embassies Collection, Department of State, Washington D.C., USA
The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
A.I.G., New York
Bank of Tokyo
Citibank, New York
Citicorp, Long Island City, New York
Colgate-Palmolive Company, New York
Equitable Life Assurance Company, New York
Goldome Bank, New York
Graystone Realty, Conneticutt
Guy Carpenter Inc., New York
Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York
Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York
IBM Corporation, New York City and Paris
Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey Joyce International, New York
Marine Midland Bank, New York
McKee Nelson LLP, New York
MONY’s Collection of Contemporary Prints, Purchase, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc., New York
National Museum of Taiwan
NatWest, New York
Pepsico, New York
Reader’s Digest, Pleasantville, New York
Surdna Foundation, New York
Selected Books & Catalogs
2023 Mosaic Artspace, Nola Zirin, Play it As it Lays, Essay by Liilly Wei
2020 Blurring Boundaries:The Women of American Abstract Artists, 1936--Present, curated by Rebecca DiGiovanna, exhibition catalogue
published on the occasion of the 2018 Exhibition and revised in 2020 for the travelling exhibition
2012 75th AAA Print Portfolio, with an introduction by Robert Storr, Dean, Yale School of Art
2011 Splendor of Dynamic Structure, curated by Nancy E. Green, exhibition catalog, Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Ithaca, New York
2009 Virtual Vistas, essay by Jill Connor, June Kelly Gallery, New York
2006 On Edge, AAA’s Artists Journal
2003 Seeing the Light, essay by Linda Yablonsky, June Kelly Gallery, New York Nola Zirin’s Urban Abstractions, essay by Barry Schwabsky,
June Kelly Gallery, New York
About Mosaic Artspace
Mosaic ArtSpace (MAS) is a multi-discipline art venue that aspires to showcase and promote various artistic endeavors with outreach to painters, sculptors, musicians, video, performance, installation artists.
MAS hosts the artwork of local artists and artists from the NY Metropolitan area and other cities.
MAS seeks to create a dialogue with issues of contemporary art practices to encourage, support and expand creativity and self-expression. To create an environment in which the arts flourish and enrich the quality of life.
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