Ruth Root’s large scale geometric panels draw from the lineage of non-objective painting. Evoking reference to Piet Mondrian, Ellsworth Kelly, and Olivier Mosset, Root’s playfully orchestrated compositions engage with the fundamental principles of formalism while simultaneously interacting with contemporary modes of interpretation.
Rendered on shaped, ultra-thin aluminium sheeting, Root’s paintings corrupt the idea of pre-fab form. Confined to the curvilinear borders of her canvas, Root’s componentized swatches of colour reveal an unorthodox organic quality transgressing the tradition of the grid as sigmoid fields, and allowing the seamless application of her paint to slightly bevel at the sharply cropped edges. Root’s paintings are often exhibited flush to the gallery walls, creating an allusion to decaled logotypes and an optical intervention with architectural space.
Though primarily concerned with the tautology of painting itself, Root is often inspired by the phenomenon of urban experience. Her bold industrial colours and aesthetically ordered geometries invoke cityscapes, product design, and 1960s technographics. The liminal quality of her paintings elicits dialogue with digitised media: the consummate flatness of her paintings condenses the illusions of solidity and space into virtual fields, compelling in their dynamic assertion and physically insubstantiality.
Ruth Root - New York - hard-edge abstraction
By Frances Richard
Read the critics on Ruth Root, and the names dropped are Philip Guston, Ellsworth Kelly, Piet Mondrian, and Richard Tuttle. The Guston references derive from the waggish strategy by which Root made her earlier color-block abstractions self-conscious: Little pairs of eyes peeped through what one had assumed to be a flat, nonillusionistic span of paint, and lit cigarettes protruded from the seams where colors touched. It was a gimmick, albeit a clever one, and in her recent show Root wisely rested it. Without the sexy, anthropomorphic gestures toward satiety, wariness, and contemplation, her abstractions (still enamel on wafer-thin, shaped aluminum panels) were left to speak for themselves in the old language of grid and hue.
In this realm of "pure" abstraction, the debt to Kelly's color/form juxtapositions looms especially large. There's ample urban boogie-woogie in the way the aluminum's odd curves balance against those sharp-edged, irregularly sized color patches, and Root's palette--favoring chocolate browns and metal grays enlivened by lemon, lavender, or cherry--exhibits something of Tuttle's knowing innocence. So are these paintings simply adroit syntheses concocted in the History of Abstraction Lab? Is the nudge-wink of the eyes and cigarettes still what the work is all about?
Met Life By Sue Spaid
Soon after I jokingly told a gallerist that artists should make their own invitations, I received a hand-cut curved card in the mail. This conscientious endeavor piqued my curiosity. To my delight, Ruth Root's seemingly haphazard installation of idiosyncratic, nonobjective paintings releases the city's bustling energy, rather than squeezing it out, as Peter Halley's Day-Glo grids do.
One wall showcases 25 meticulously constructed abstract drawings that simultaneously vary shape, mark-making, and decorative patterns, and amount to a cityscape replete with skyscrapers and transport vehicles. One glow-in-the-dark drawing, wryly situated amid these urban motifs, resembles a balloon dog or a plate of sausages. In the dark, this dozing metropolis recalls the Queens Museum's panorama.
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