James Scarborough reviews Christine Frerichs’ Serenade in art ltd. 5.12.15

Christine Frerichs: “Serenade” at Klowden Mann

With “Serenade,” her second solo show at Klowden Mann, Christine Frerichs offers deeply felt analyses of landscapes. She works in oil, acrylic, and wax. Although their surfaces are gritty, as if they’ve been blasted with stucco, there’s serenity to each piece. This serenity comes from the works’ narrow color range and the hypnotic, semicircular lines that characterize each composition. In the context of landscapes, these lines suggest atmospheric millibars, tectonic fault lines, or topographic contour lines. Here is the work of patience and stillness. She might render the atmospheres with an impressionistic brushstroke, however Frerichs’ time frame is far from fleeting. She begins with a memory of each place and then keeps looking and waiting, to define its underlying structure.
The light between us (Lake Tahoe) (all works cited 2015, except where noted) features a low horizon line that allows room for an immense sky. The cloudy sky is blue and pink, bruised. Vertical rows of some landscape feature an orderly recession into the background, leading to the snow-capped Sierras. Seen together, the ground and sky roil with ephemeral, mortal fury. The top of the picture, though, is blue, the color of eternity. Factor in the curving textured lines that amplify the composition’s structure and you’ve got a visual document that attests to knowledge acquired over and perhaps in spite of time. Her lines are less dramatic, less emotive than those in van Gough’s Starry Night (1889). Hers stabilize the composition while those of the Dutchman seem to want to shatter it. Both represent vastly different states of mind. Other work uses a diptych format to great symbolic effect. On Love (for Agnes Martin) and Warm Winter Kiss (for Constantin Brancusi) reference the human figure. The space where the two canvases join is suffused with warm, convivial color, suggesting her affection for the two artists.  Similarly, in Serenade (2014) and Aubade (2), the co-joining of the two parts of the diptych suggest the co-mingling  of two people in the evening and at dawn.

There are 17 pieces in the show. Some are as large as six-by-seven feet while others are as small as a piece of typing paper. The large ones engulf, even overwhelm, the viewer. The smaller ones she calls letters. That’s a nice metaphor for the show. Letters, some epic, some brief, all presenting immediate impressions of something, of someone, ling after the letter is written.

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