Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

Judy Rifka. Evolution. 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 156 x 68in. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Judy Rifka Fuses the Elements in “Star Street,” her new show at Brooklyn’s Trestle Projects. From the beginning, when she studied with Ab-Ex giant Esteban Vicente, Judy Rifka cultivated gestural freedom and the logic of the impetuous. Her work is not fussy and pristine. 

Like diaries of paint and cut canvas, they are scripted quickly, in broad strokes. Of these larger pieces, Rifka says, “The texture and gestures have to be grosser and bigger in every way.” The results are dynamic revelations of urban verve and vibrato.

Pushing composition into a formalized tug of war with pattern, material and gesture, Rifka fearlessly slaps, scolds, coaxes, teases, whips, joins and seduces canvases until they shape up. In these minimalist cum riotous artworks, she brings to bear all the considerable forces of her career.

Rifka emphasizes the momentum of composition in her process. “I am building the surface forward … and laterally. They are constantly in competition with each other.” The impetus is on capturing raw direction coming from her mind’s eye. Her hands are the conveyance — whether cutting, gluing or painting — presenting an immediate and uncensored state of native power.

Yet for all their bravura and chaotic patching, the works are anything but unrefined. They are as supple and sinuous as black panthers in the snow. They ripple with muscle and inherent grace. The marks become “track-marks,” records of the artist’s breathtaking journey. Passages suggest the sweep of headlights or a maze of streets. 

The signs and symbols, orbs, loops, dots, and asterisks, provide a narrative context and a link to Miro’s liberating lexicon. These works can read like celestial charts, calendars, landscapes, weather maps and aerial overviews. Ripped canvas strips add visceral drama. 

In “Meridian,” a large circle is formed from these long ribbons of white canvas that were glued on. This collage aspect adds weight, both metaphorically (like bandages or rawhide shields) but also physically. The works evoke the weight and seriousness of Anselm Kiefer. Rifka shares his sense of monumentality, but here it is tempered with vivacity. The circle bursts with kinetic energy and almost appears to be rolling across a frozen terrain.

The pieces also take on the historical connotations of textiles or wall hangings. Like finely wrought tapestries they purvey a sense of richness. Or like furry trophies of wild beasts, they hang like hides of art itself, skinned and stretched. Unruly scraps of adhered canvas break out from the sides resembling a tail or ear. This naturalistic aspect adds another dimension to the complex rhythms put forth. 

A strict black and white palette heightens the entire compositional rhapsody. A few grays leaven the works with delightful, frilly passages in counterpoint to bold diagonals and horizontals. Elemental forces are captured and synthesized, hearkening back to the original artwork — cave paintings. Rifka moves beyond her own self-awareness to tap into an unspoiled, primordial power source. Sharing her vision of the universal hunt for meaning and relevance, she takes down the big game.



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