Art in Review

JESSICA ROHRER: "From Kewaskum to Brooklyn"

By Roberta Smith

Published: July 4, 2003


526 West 26th Street

Through July 31

In her first solo show in New York, Jessica Rohrer triangulates Sienese painting, Precisionism and Photo-Realism in small, taut panel paintings of houses and buildings that form a kind of autobiography by edifice. Theo works depict the exteriors of all the places the artist has called home, starting with a modernistic tract house in Kewaskum, Wis., and ending with a modest apartment building in Brooklyn. In between are a corporate-looking dormitory in Evanston, Ill., and a pink Shingle Style house in New Haven, Conn.

The tale told is personal yet remains private; it perfectly suits a painting style that combines poetic restraint with a meticulous sense of underlying geometry and overlying flatness. The combination can bring to mind George Ault’s great, under-appreciated "Russell’s Corners" paintings of the late 1940’s, depicting a cluster of red barns looming out of the night, which brought a rare emotional resonance to Precisionism.

Ms. Rohrer has returned to paint her former residences more than once, and the paintings, which date from 2001 to the present, reflect a subtle development- quite literally, in her treatment of reflections. The earlier versions have straight-forward reflections or none at all. The reflections in recent paintings become quietly more aberrant and spatially illogical, introducing a Magrittean sense of dream and disjunction.

It’s not clear where Ms. Rohrer goes from here. Maybe she will find a new subject or move a few more times. But maybe she will continue at least for a while to revisit these sites, discovering new parts of painting and herself.