This weekend, September 10th, is the big weekend for gallery openings in Chicago but Golden Gallery strategically decided to preempt that evening of art overload and started their new season a week early with a show of work by New York-based artist Patricia Treib.
Showing both small-scale work and large canvases, Treib’s works link together, creating a conversation across Golden’s intimate rooms in this cohesive show. In Treib’s abstract artworks, one will first notice a high sensitivity to the media that the artist chooses to work with. Paper is the preferred medium of choice it seems, over which Treib layers thinned oil paints and/or gouache never overloading the surface.
The abstractions can reference particular objects that Treib clues us into via her titles: Armless Sleeve, Glass Clock, Whistlerian Vase. In speaking with the artist, she said she likes to use titles as a kind of “anchor” for the work, giving the audience a clue to her referent for the painting. Occasionally I found the titles to be a bit distracting as I tried to make out the titular object itself, but this is an overly literal move that seems to miss the point of Treib’s work, the painting itself. It’s much more satisfying when one just lets the work fluctuate between abstraction and representation, enjoying the painting for what it is and not trying to determine what it may be.
Patricia Treib. Conversation. 2010. Oil on paper mounted on linen. 15.25" x 11.25”. Image courtesy of Golden Gallery and the artist.
Treib’s exhibition becomes particularly interesting when one notices that certain pieces are related, or even nearly the same. This was especially true of Men and Conversation (both 2010), two paintings that share a close relationship but are each pushed in different productive directions by the artist. Seen above, Conversation is small scale, beginning with paper mounted to linen over which the artist applied thinned oil paint. Blue and red forms barely touch at the top and are mostly divided by a brown patch in the middle. In the gallery across the hall is Men, seen below, the same shapes and colors executed on a large canvas (66” x 50”). Conversation is one of several well-done small abstractions on view. The work has balanced composition with layered and harmonious color, peppered with small gestures. Men picks up these gestures that create the forms of color, and Treib repeats them writ large on the big canvas, to a very satisfying result. The artist sees the relationship between the works not so much as the traditional small study for a large piece, but a “script,” in which the small work outlines the larger one. Thus, despite some visual similarity, on closer study they indicate two differing paths of abstraction, the gestural in the large canvas and the more analytic.
Patricia Treib. Men. 2010. Oil on canvas. 66" x 50”. Image courtesy of Golden Gallery and the artist.
The artist informed me that the referent of both Men and Conversation was the space between two figures in a Pierro della Francesca painting. There are small details in a master’s work that always evade widespread admiration in favor of the main event, the patron, the allegory, the crucifixion, etc. Treib pays homage to Italian Renaissance master but not by trying to beat him at his own game, rather by excelling at her own, a true artistic tribute.
Patricia Treib. Leaned Pages. 2010. Gouache on linen. 68" x 50”. Image courtesy of Golden Gallery and the artist.
These are not the only modes of abstraction on view either, Leaned Pages (2010, seen above) is a large work that is somewhat of an outlier in terms of the other paintings on view, but is nonetheless is notable. Treib applies thin gouache layers over each other to build a rich color field that moves from blue to green that recalled the palette of Whistler to me (an artist Treib references overtly in other works). Overt referent gone, there’s only color to enjoy in this work.
It will be interesting to see how this younger artist develops her commitment to abstraction in the coming years. Clearly, Treib’s ability to work in different modes of abstraction will serve her very well along the varying paths she has already begun to productively explore.