Arlene Distler


Marsha Lieberman at Burnett Gallery

Marsha Lieberman exhibits three series, “Ladders”, “Sills”, and “Windows”, tied together by the painterly notion of space made visible. Investigating the idea of the object in space, says Lieberman, is a continuation of her concerns as a dancer, the art-form she worked in for many years.

Movement and space are potent in the “Original Five”, studies, part of the “Windows” series. Each uses as its basis the five Platonic elements, equated with a geometric shape (as in “Tetrahedron: Fire”). The point here is not scientific or mathematical, but rather poetic evocations of the ways in which the forms have “shown up” throughout history in mathematics, art, and science.

In the “Ladder” series, Lieberman superimposes realistically painted fruit onto a background divided by rungs of a ladder lain horizontally. The space between rungs is filled with what appears to be fabric in a black and white checkerboard pattern. Patterns of triangles frame the picture along its borders. In the last of these (#8, 9, 10) the substructure is further abstracted to create a Mondrian-like grid, softened by plant forms and patterns painted and scratched into it.

In “Sill” #2 and #3 the artist again juxtaposes spherical objects with the flat plane of the canvas, most of it taken up with blue “sky”, mottled with ochre and orange. The spheres live happily with sky and void.

The “Windows” series includes some delightful small-scale work in which space is evoked through the interplay of “inside” and “outside” – landscape and its containment. Whereas in the “Ladder” and “Sills” series colors run to oranges, ochres, russets and reds, the palette in “Windows” is made up of blues and greens, set off by red or black framing marks. The “Wire Works” paintings from this series contain delicate, tightly coiled wire laid across the picture plane, meant to emphasize topographical features, such as a hill in “Wire Works#4”, one of the strongest in the series. The small scale intensifies the sense of contained energy.

This show is beautifully anchored by the bold, handsome pottery of Ji-Yeon Kim, with which it shares gallery space.


Art New England
2007