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Laurie Thomas

Priska C. Juschka

Enter Priska C. Juschka anytime before October 20th, and you’ll see an average-sized painting entitled "Blight" on your left. It’s part of Laurie Thomas’s current show Chandeliers. It’s special because, in a show full of very good paintings, it’s a great one. Its composition is simple. In the upper left-hand corner, small ochre circles hover in the milky white ground that covers most of the surface. Off center right on the lower half of the canvas a larger orb hangs, a conglomeration of the small ochre circles floating above. In this sphere, something burns, for flicks of lemon yellow and orange impasto light its interior. There is an alluring, yet sickly glow to the image, a light that no doubt gives rise to its title. If not for the exhibition’s title, you might not guess that "Blight" depicts a chandelier. The motif, derived from chandeliers at Grand Central Station, unites the fifteen paintings on display at Priska C. Juschka. Thomas uses the elements of the chandelier—the bulbs and wires—as fodder for her abstracted paintings of emotional states.

"Deep Yellow," Laurie Thomas. Courtesy of the artist.

In "Deep Yellow," yellow-rimmed spheres tinged with pink and green float on a sea of fat Prussian blue brushstrokes. The yellow lights, far removed from their home on Grand Central Station’s ceiling, create a euphoric sense of motion tinged with the threat of their dark surroundings.

Thomas flirts with a centralized composition, but the paintings work best when the chandelier image is slightly offset. The one case, "Chandelier White," in which the composition is completely bilaterally symmetrical results in a deadened painting. Perhaps her experiments with framing, such as the black line that runs down the edge of "Rhyme A" and the four panels that compose "Ring Around the Rose," are further attempts to deal with the conundrum of making an image from an object centered by construction. Neither approach is as nuanced as her earlier compositions.

Fearless in her choice of colors, Thomas employs everything from primaries to pastels. She is equally varied in her mark making. The results are often unexpected. In a small painting entitled "For Nicky," pastel blues sit against a bubble gum pink ground with the white of the canvas acting as highlight on the ovoid form of the chandelier. In Thomas’s work the best of the French tradition is preserved. It’s liberating and encouraging to see an artist grappling with painting’s past and coming out the better for it.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2003

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