Not too long ago figurative and abstract art were at opposite ends of the aesthetic spectrum.The dawning of the postmodern era,however,created a détende between contending tendecies and opened up a whole new range of visual possibilities for artists who wished to express facets of our increasingly complex and fragmented reality while creatng work thas wast was also innovative.
One artist who has evolved a synthesis that succeeds splendidly in both regars is the Spanish painter Nuria Rabanillo,whose solo show was seen recently art Montserrat Conteporary Art,547 West 27 th Street,in Chelsea,and whose work is included in the gallery´s year-round salon exhibition.
The first thing that struck one upon entering the gallery during Rabanillo's exibition was the sheer abstract impact of her mostly large acrilyc painting on canvas and smaller work in the same medium on linen or paper.
Overall,the colors in Rabanillo's compositions are relatively subdued,often with large areas of black and/or brown defining the dominant forms;yet they are highlighted here and there with piquant bursts of brighter red,orange,green,violet,or blue hues-usually contained within specific areas.However,it is the stark tonal contrats thas lends her work its formidable presence,with fragmented figurative elements,specifically heads,set against geometric areas of hard-eged color.
These heards are surrounded by thick white lines that could either suggest spiritual auras or the black areas for cutting around paper dolls.(Such ambiguousness is one of the things that makes Rabanillo's painting so intringly enigmatic.)But however the individual viewer cares to interpret them,one thing is inescapable:they seem to speak volumes about the sense of isolaton ,disconnection,and alienation that many people feel in the modern world.
Thus.like the depersonalized figures of the American sculptor Ernest Trova or the emaciated subjects of the Swiss sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti,they have a universal resonance that is made all the more dramatic by the emblematic abstract forms in Rabanillo's paintings.Andvfor all their cookie-cutter sameness,their features are subtly expressive,perhaps a bit melancholy,as if to suggst the repressed emotions beneath the impassive masks that most of us must wear as we go about our daily business in a global context which has already surpassd the wildest imaginings of science fiction writers.
Indeed, Rabanillo's faces seem to stand for the existential plight of "Everyperson,"lending a hint of ivory to a title such as "Silencios" ford a large painting of overlapping faces floating unmoored against a color field divided into black and brown rectangles.And in an even larger canvas called"Serenidad,"a long row of faces enlivered like a color chart by a spectrum of vibrant hues,suggest targets in shooting gallery.
Also including smaller works(ominously reminiscent of 9/11 from a New Yorker's point of view)in which tall buildings awash in acidic hues loom against skies where airplanes and helicopters swarm like tiny insects,this exibition revealed Nuria Rabanillo to be an artist who combines formidable formal staments with a singularly fascinating, if slightly eerie,slant on moderm life.
June 2009 New York