Escapes… something to delve into like a flight of fancy or a vacation. Escapes…something to get away from like an uncomfortably close encounter. Escapes… a vehicle like a stairway or ladder for exiting – sometimes used for an emergency and sometimes as a place of respite on a hot summer day. Or – Escapes … the title and theme of the artworks and for the new exhibit as a whole by Roni Sherman Ramos at Atlantic Gallery.
Roni Sherman Ramos: Escapes introduces us to a large number of abstract paintings, each one employing visual language and technique to construct a semblance of “escape”. The paintings, all medium-size, are oil on linen making them more window views than hand-held dreams or giant environs. This lends a sense of reality and possibility — “I am standing in a room looking” or “I can go there” – to them.
Escapes 1_oil on linen mounted on panel_20 inches x 30 inches_2020.
Colorful and full of biomorphic shapes, Ramos allows Simultaneous Contrast – a juxtaposition of hues, value, and saturation – to provide the light. The variety and placement of shapes provide the perspective. And the density of paint creates the expression. Escapes 1 is the epitome of this. Large turquoise and bluish formations are arrayed along the bottom and sides amid a field of crimson and orange-red. In a central location she has used a literally glittering yellow from which light grays and warm whites arise and dissipate like clouds or steam. Looking at Escapes 1, I feel myself aglow.
Escapes 11_oil on linen mounted on panel_36 inches x 35 inches_2021.
There is an earthiness to these canvases undoubtedly because they have been worked. They have been painted and scraped to reveal the remnants of underpainting, and sometimes are even painted over again to achieve texture and weight. This process can be seen in Escapes 11, a craggy, predominately red square with a radial composition of irregular shapes in yellows, blues, violets, and whites. The shapes remind me of bone fragments and the dominance of red makes me think of blood. I associate the body without the necessity of a figure, rather like Kiki Smith’s drawings and sculpture.
Escapes 9_oil on linen mounted on panel_24 inches x 30 inches_2020.
Despite this intense working, Ramos never completely loses the earliest grounds – reminding me of a complex wine that still retains the sparkle of a fresh grape, or a path eroded by the history of what had come before. Often her methods lead to startling surprises as in Escapes 9, a predominately blue and yellow painting. The format is landscape but the closeness of the values of the yellow and the light blue place those colors on a similar plane. Upon inspection, touches of pink and green are picked up. There are expanses where the yellow seems dulled but then is highlighted by a burst of pure color, which is nice. But the real surprises are a few scattered marks of a darker blue arced over the mid-section of the field. I am reminded of birds in flight far-up in the sky, and I soar with them.
A former nurse and a community activist, Roni Sherman Ramos is a prolific artist who completed the numerous paintings in this exhibition during the Covid-19 shutdown (with a few finished just afterward). The conditions in which they were created lend a poignancy that gives her exhibition a timely point of view – both into and out of our environs. It is an emotional response to the life and death around us.
Roni Sherman Ramos: Escapes will be on view at Atlantic Gallery at 548 W. 28th Street, #540 in the Chelsea area of New York City from September 7th through September 25th. There will be an Opening Reception from 6 – 8 PM on Thursday, September 9th and an Artist Talk at 7 PM on Thursday, September 23rd. These events are open to all. For more information please visit @atlanticgallerynyc or contact Atlantic Gallery at www.AtlanticGallery.org.
And gere is a chance to view the whole installation. Many thanks to Atlantic Gallery for providing this!