Photo by: Karen Philippi

“These works have to be seen in the original to be fully appreciated; their size, their extraordinary colors, and their rough, strangely beautiful textures create a special world all their own.”

Franklin Robinson  Former Richard J. Schwartz Director of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

ART NEW ENGLAND

October / November 2006

Ida Schmulowitz: Expressive Landscapes
Bannister Gallery, Rhode Island College

For twenty-three years, Ida Schmulowitz painted the urban landscape from a pedestrian bridge spanning I-95 in Providence. While the paintings that fill Banister Gallery lay bare the ambitiousness and sustained exploration of such an undertaking, they more significantly testify to the compelling nature of the act of painting for this artist.

At an average size of 6 feet by 8 feet, the nine oil-on-canvas works painted in 2004 and 2005 comprise the artists last series of the site. The bridge, now under reconstruction, does not promise in its revision the supportive space and circumstance for an outdoor studio. Nevertheless, Schmulowitz is undaunted by nearly impossible logistics. She rolled her canvasses to take to the bridge on foot, laid them down on its floor to paint, then dragged them back to her studio in a rope cradle.

The paintings are spectacular. Size is not the only factor in their expressive reach. Eight smaller paintings on paper in the gallery entrance and hall show the same intensity and impassioned involvement as the canvases. Color and drawing are complex but not fussy, and the artists process enriches the work with that same directness and absence of affectation.

Applying paint in thin layers, Schmulowitz often took a morning painting back out at sunset months after it was begun. A pale sky gone peachy-orange carries its history and alludes to colors role in the passage of time. As highway shadows lengthened at the end of the day, their geometry became more explicit and their hue more saturated.

Footprints left in the foreground from walking on the canvas to reach the upper edges mimic brushmarks. The confidence that comes with knowing a site—and developing over the years a vocabulary that expresses its essence unleashes—great intuitive force that explodes in these works.

Meredith Fife Day