affinities: carrie lederer | leonard rosenfeld.

date. October 22 - December 11

Opening. October 22 from 5 - 8pm


Essay by Julia Couzens

The sensory thrill that materially based art can elicit is a wonder without peer.  It is a wonder that we respond to with fascination, rapture, and inquiry. When combined with narrative imagery such wonders engender fanciful expeditions into fantastical worlds and encounters with inanimate objects bristling with life.  Pastine Projects brings together two artists fluent in the language of haptic presence, introducing to the San Francisco region respected, yet under-recognized New York artist Leonard Rosenfeld (1926-2009) with noted Bay Area painter, Carrie Lederer. Together their works offer a master class in total tactual immersion.

As artists, Lederer and Rosenfeld share a magpie’s eyes with their affinity for the snatched scrap and ready oddment, for life’s detritus, for stuff.  Lederer deploys fabric, fur, and glitter to work up richly laden paintings on panels and paper redolent with touch. Rosenfeld cobbled together wooden stretcher bars, carpet tacks, crushed cans, and telephone wire to create singularly inventive constructions urgent with physicality.  Both used their material absorption as a springboard into narrative enchantment and wonder tales.  

Lederer’s abstract gardens are stunningly complex, exhortative inventions of allegory. Amid rampant urbanization, diminishing ecological resources, and unstable ecosystems, Lederer’s paintings offer speculations on our primordial roots and the verdant tapestry of humankind’s cosmic interconnectedness.  Layering meticulous painting, pattern, and ornamentation, she negotiates a path between sumptuous narratives of feminine blossoming and visionary odes to our existential fragility.

Two works, Abstracted Garden (Homage to my Grandma Helmi) and Abstracted Garden (Homage to my Great Aunt Tynne), dovetail emblems to Lederer’s personal lineage within her concern for the global biosphere. Collaged on painted wood panels, fabric swatches overlap and cluster into grids that recall aerial views of rural row crops or handstitched quilts.  Frames of squirming, supple tendrils painted in hot pinks, oranges, and sour greens embellish the grids, creating an abstract portrait, or mandala.  Subsequently decorated with tangible cultural artifacts such as doll parts and paint-tipped yarn pom-poms, her exhilarating work hints at a sort of wild lunacy as much as it rouses reverence and mystery.

Rosenfeld’s singular assemblage constructions land hard on the streets of the New York’s Lower East Side.  After attending the Art Students League on the GI Bill, Rosenfeld was protean in his studio practice.  Until his death in 2009 at the age of 82 he was venturesome in style, creating drawings, paintings, and assemblages vigorous in their narrative allusions to urban life, geopolitical events, and the eternal cycle of social ills. Although Rosenfeld exhibited in galleries and museums, he was something of an outlier, working out of the spotlight, faithful to his own restless vision.  If discovery and search is an artist’s North Star, then relative anonymity is arguably a gift. The day that Rosenfeld reached down to pick up a scrap of telephone wire was the day he grasped the artist’s gold ring: sui generis formal invention.

Innovative in their time and to this day, works such as Chinatown (The Year of the Fish), Jail House Love, and Luego, Caballo, press against the barriers of painting.  They possess fetish-y theatrical presence and urgency.  Literally working on painting’s edge, Rosenfeld stripped the canvas off stretcher bars to stack strips of telephone wire in writhing depictions of stylized human dramas and geometric linear motifs.  He worked without preciousness for his materials. Their purpose was to convey meaning rather than to signal intrinsic value.  In that purpose, Rosenfeld was a magician.

JULIA COUZENS is an artist and writer. She divides her time between Merritt Island outside Clarksburg on the Sacramento River delta and Los Angeles.  She has been
a contributing writer to since 2014.