Clare Rojas may be known for her folk-art inspired narrative paintings, but a new show at Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld's gallery upends expectations with a series of geometric paintings that take cues from music and poetry. The show was specifically designed for the grandiose 78th Street space, featuring bold and brightly colored works that range from paintings inspired by Simon & Garkfunkel to sculpture and small pieces set against new poetry by the artist.
The exhibition marks Rojas's first exhibition in New York City since her days at Deitch Projects, after which time she took a break from painting for a few years to focus on her writing. "I had a teacher in a writing course who had an assignment for us to remove all the nouns, and then remove the verbs," said Rojas, who lives and works in the California Bay Area. "I realized then, like an epiphany, that I wanted to focus on the space that the narrative moved through, the spaces that were sometimes taken for granted. I came back to painting to practice an awareness of all that I didn't focus on in the past."
The resulting works are bold abstractions, some playing off against ample white space, others converging on each other with subtle rhythms. One work, sound (2013), was inspired by the strings of the guitar, while waterfall (2013) and envelope (2013)—each delineated by black rectangular shapes—were specifically created to interact with the black patterns of the gallery's surfaces and stairwells.
In the upstairs gallery, three poems by Rojas have been placed alongside smaller paintings and a sculpture. It's a more introspective and subtler room meant to give attention to Rojas's most recent concerns.
"Poetry feels very quiet to me, and internal, and for me occupies a meditative space," Rojas said. "I feel like when I paint I am in a similar meditative space, and the poetry and painting share a nice conversation with one another because of that."
In "Water At Night," Rojas describes flying over a lake: "I watched water catch light of the moon. / The water and light the only thing not black on the surface. / An animated snake moving along and then to disappear. / I wanted to capture this and show it off." It's a sentiment certainly captured in the paintings.