Acknowledged affinities between painting and music must surely be prehistoric in origin -- being, along with movement/dance, among the most elemental of human impulses. Of course abstract painting has always been talked about in musical terms, specifically aligned with music as a parallel language. This analogy has mostly been perpetuated not by critics but by artists themselves because indeed the process of manipulating the formal dynamics of the two ineffable substances, color and sound, is virtually the same.
The postulation of abstract painting as a "musical" idiom is the theme of two simultaneous shows under one title, Color-Time-Space, at Lohin Geduld in Chelsea and Janet Kurnatowski in Brooklyn through October 10. Curated by painters Joanne Freeman and Kim Uchiyama, and drawn primarily, but not entirely, from the stables of the two galleries, this is a lively and yes, musical show of small abstract, mostly geometric, paintings. Featuring the work of 13 painters, each offering a distinct illumination of the theme, the show is more than anything a resounding affirmation of the vitality of abstract painting. Some of the many outstanding works include a reprise of new Thornton Willis paintings that we saw at Elizabeth Harris last season, the funky configurations and lustrous surfaces of Laurie Fendrich, Julie Gross' exquisite color and rhythmic circle motifs, and juicy open-ended gestural works by James Biederman. For me, the big surprise was the work of Kazimira Rachfal.
A bit more stark than the other work in the show, her small abstractions are finely tuned poetic configurations in which the perfectly proportioned shapes, the layered oil surface, and the verticle format engage to form a sort of perpetual, slightly shifting tension -- like a long, deeply resonant, modulated hum.