Rochelle Feinstein’s “Fredonia!” featured on Contemporary Art Daily
Artist: Rochelle Feinstein
Venue: Nina Johnson, Miami
Exhibition Title: Fredonia!
Date: November 20, 2020 – January 9, 2021
Selected By: Tenzing Barshee
Nina Johnson is proud to present Fredonia!, an exhibition of new and recent paintings by Rochelle Feinstein, opening on November 20th, 2020 and remaining on view through January 9th, 2021. Feinstein is a legendary painter, whose work and ideas about abstraction have influenced generations of artists. Over the past four decades, she has deflated the dogmas of modernism with humor and verve, liberally borrowing from different schools of painting, as well as other mediums, including drawing, photography, printmaking, sculpture, video, and installation. Though it takes myriad forms, her singular project always centers painting within culture at large.
Fredonia! refers to a fictional utopia, a 19th-century name for the United States that never took off, and a failed country in the 1933 Marx Brothers film Duck Soup. The exhibition features several recent bodies of work which reflect upon this time of turmoil, anxiety, and gallows humor. Feinstein uses the motif of the rainbow—a visual trope and cultural artifact first explored while in residence at the American Academy in Rome—to present works rich in color and connotation. She moves freely through the history of late 20th-century painting, rejoicing in materiality while poking holes in the notion of pure painting. In one, thick pools of paint are stitched together with a zigzagging horizontal length of acrylic yarn. It first appears as a harshly linear intrusion fracturing the painting. But it also resembles a line graph, and thus represents Feinstein’s playful, subversive use of abstraction to record different types of information.
The rainbow itself begins to change form, shifting away from a purely optical presence—and from aspirational connotations of pots of gold—to the spectrum’s current use in data visualization. In an election year, no colors are more freighted than red and blue. Feinstein isolates these two colors in her Plein Air series. As clouds condense and overlap, one cannot help but think of the Electoral College map on election night. Painted on unprimed drop cloth—wrinkled, with pack- aging folds still visible—they foreground their material existence, and in doing so, emphasize the logistics of capitalism coursing through contemporary art. A series of smaller works on cardboard further this exploration. These works, with their gradients and graphs signifying everything from customer satisfaction, to humidity, to nothing, are painted on cardboard shipped via Amazon. These are her Happiness paintings: a state which, given the impermanence of the cardboard, is as fleeting as a rainbow.