The Unbearable Lightness of Thriving

A newly launched space on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, FORMah gallery, echoes Virginia Woolf’s exhortation that a woman thrives once given a “room of one’s own.” Located at 42 Allen Street, the gallery’s Founder Maryana Kaliner  in order to realize her vision of elevating the presence and space that living women artists exert in contemporary culture. Exhibitions at FORMah highlight what is possible when women artists are given the chance to display works on their own terms. The initial group exhibit currently on view at the space offers a multi-dimensional window into the powerful range of artistic production women artists inhabit as a creative force in the contemporary art market.

With a global vision and a demonstrated mission, notes Kaliner, “to provide a platform for female-identifying artists,” the gallery’s ambitious exhibition program is given a fitting inaugural show with “Thriving.” The evocative group exhibition, which is currently on view, features artists Chellis Baird, Prema Murthy, Rachel Rubenstein and Noga Yudkovik-Etzioni. Sumptuous texture and faintly perceptible brushstrokes populate this formidable survey of materiality and minimalism. “Thriving” is a compelling study in surface and scale, and the show remains on view until Saturday, December 17th, 2022.
The daring quality of this first show with FORMah gallery lies in its ambitious approach to scale. Artist Prema Murthy’s immense and radiant paintings offer vibrance and geometric harmony to the exhibition. The artist reflects on her conceptual approach to composition building through repeated motifs inhabiting a regular surface pattern across her paintings. “The energetic through line in my work lies below the surface of things,” notes Murthy. “[This renders] a way to the formless through form.” Murthy’s immense, human-scale compositions engage the viewer, tempting visitors to explore the work from multiple angles to uncover the secrets hidden in plain sight.

Thriving Installation image featuring work by Chellis Baird, courtesy FORMah gallery

Thriving Installation image featuring work by Chellis Baird, courtesy FORMah gallery

Texture and undulation permeate artist Chellis Baird’s work, which demonstrates a keen grasp of – and interest in – tactility and abstraction. Works like “Cambre” twist and enfold layers of material into dazzling configurations that titillate the viewer. Despite their relatively smaller scale, Baird’s captivating sculptural works hold impactful visual weight in the context of the exhibition as a whole.
Israeli artist Noga Yudkovik-Etzioni probes the distance between imagery and representational artwork and abstraction, and the works that she exhibits in “Thriving” provide clear evidence of that sensitivity to form and composition. A multi-disciplinary artist, her process spans drawing, sculpture and installation. The artist, who has lived and worked in Israel and Europe, exudes a profound understanding and awareness of how her three-dimensional artworks inhabit space and exert an impact on the surrounding elements of an exhibition. She has noted that her sculpture and installation in particular function, “like rhythm and music in space.” The self-awareness of her works, embracing curvilinear forms and organic motifs, offers insight into the subversive stylings that Yudkovik-Etzioni brings, emphasizing her experimental and iconoclastic approach to contemporary art-making.

 Rachel Rubenstein "Gentle Power" Ripped canvas, fluid acrylic, and gel on canvas (20 x 60 inches) image courtesy FORMah Galler

Rachel Rubenstein “Gentle Power” Ripped canvas, fluid acrylic, and gel on
canvas (20 x 60 inches) image courtesy FORMah Galler

Rachel Rubenstein’s artistic practice focuses on the liberating possibilities of transformation. A sense of purposeful repetition and carefully defined mark-making define the surfaces of her captivating paintings. The artist’s works on view inhabit a space between abstraction and color field painting, infused with a haunting expressive quality. Examining the relative dips and valleys spanning the surface of her paintings, the viewer is aware of the tension of this eroded surface against the consistent color and hue spanning the painting’s surface.
“Thriving” eschews figuration, a regular recurrence in exhibitions emphasizing themes prevalent throughout artwork by women, instead uniting disparate artistic visions with a playful and incisive approach to shape and scale. Works on view invite the viewer to consider dimensionality, presence and surface treatment across painting, sculpture and the space in between. All of the artists in the exhibition regularly show their work internationally, and this scope is reflected in the universal themes present in much of the artwork on view. Often introspective in nature, what the works lack in pattern and contrasting colors it compensates for in the range of dimensions and perspectives effectively cast onto the viewer over the course of the show’s footprint.
Optimism, transformation and an ambitious sense of artworks capability for carefully balancing opposites in compositional harmony define the visual ethos present throughout “Thriving.” In harnessing repetitive motifs and unlocking the potential that mark-making holds for evoking memory and growth, artworks in this powerful survey show offers a vision for what lies beyond the fault line where abstraction, minimalism and surface texture all meet in these works by contemporary women artists.
“Thriving” realizes the vision of FORMah (AKA FORM Art House) gallery’s founder in a powerful foray onto the contemporary art market dominating Manhattan’s trendy Lower East Side. The show remains on view at FORMah gallery, 42 Allen St until December 17th. Guests can visit the space to view these works Tuesdays-Saturdays, 12-6 PM.

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