Born in KapuvÃ¡r, Hungary in 1923, Judit Reigl resides in Paris and is considered a major figure in European art â€“ but not here. In fact, you could say she is relatively unknown in the U.S. save for shows like the one up now at Janos Gat Gallery, her first New York exhibition.
Reigl, like the show as a whole, is abruptly pure. It took me a few minutes to rewire my brain to think in terms of art that truly was made for cerebral pleasure, for the artist herself, and not for the making of a marketable object. And that, to me, is a very European attitude â€“ or at least this was the case in the middle of the twentieth century.
Reiglâ€™s work â€“ which can at times be compared to Jean Dubuffet, as in â€œGuano-Roundâ€ (1958-64); Alberto Burri, as in â€œGuano-Menhirâ€ (1959-63); Robert Motherwell, as in â€œWeightlessnessâ€ (1966); or Mark Tobey, as in â€œUnfoldingâ€ (1974) â€“ is simply a coincidence of experimentation. Reigl was interested in many approaches, and could fit in nicely with the Informel or Art Brut crowd. But there is something else there, maybe itâ€™s cosmic or physics, or just an unfettered extension of thoughts, urges and spontaneous reactions â€“ it is hard to say.
The works here are from 1956-1975, giving visitors a particular focus of this great artistâ€™s 50-plus-year career. Early on, it was her Surreal-like mindscapes that got things rolling â€“ an interest that soon refocused to an even more automatic and pure place, as we see in the selection of works here.
My favorite paintings in the show are â€œCenter of Dominanceâ€ (1958) and â€œOutburstâ€ (1956): the former (top of page) because it is so dead-on with its centralized composition and simple technique; the latter (right) because of the way she works paint like a sculptor: richly, with additive and reductive techniques.
The work is strong, forceful in its independence of gesture, and mysterious and wholly non-objective in its content. To achieve this, Reigl pushes past the familiar bounds of color and form as she moves into another realm of expression, all while presenting us with an approach where composition, or the plan of placement, is merely a relatively unimportant starting point that leads to a remarkably buoyant field. â€“ D. Dominick Lombardi
The exhibit runs through November 25, 2007 at Janos Gat Gallery, 195 Bowery (at Spring St.).
D. Dominick Lombardi is an artist with representation in Kasia Kay Art Projects and in Chicago, Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon, NY, and ADA gallery in Richmond, VA; a writer with Sculpture, Sculpture Review, DART, and NYARTS; and an independent curator.