Discoveries at every turn in Joan Snyder paintings at Parrasch Heijnen

Joan Snyder, "Field of Berries," 2016
Joan Snyder, "Field of Berries," 2016 (Adam Reich / Joan Snyder / Parrasch-Heijnen Gallery)

Joan Snyder’s eight paintings at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery are a joy to behold. Tough and abuzz with enough visual energy to make your eyes wide with excitement, they look like they were fun to make.

Even better, they’re fun to look at. Pleasure takes center stage in the New York painter’s mixed-media abstractions, each of which draws your eyes into a lively dance all its own.

In the entryway hangs “Spring 1971.” The largest and oldest work in the exhibition, it alone makes a visit worthwhile. Composed of 15 horizontal lines, its orderly format is interrupted by numerous dots, dabs, drips and a handful of echoing curves. If a sheet of musical notation were hallucinating, this is what it might see.

In the main gallery hangs “Womansong,” seven canvases Snyder has painted during the last year and a half. They are freer and meatier than “Spring 1971.” But the bones can be sensed beneath the spunky surfaces of the new paintings, where luscious colors, rambunctious brushwork and madcap collage give visitors plenty of room to roam.

Sometimes your eyes rest on a glistening puddle of inky blue or ricochet off a decorous dollop of whip-creamy paint, into which a sprig of dried flowers has been stuck. At other times, they fly through atmospheric expanses of tangy colors, wash-boarding over the weave of raw canvas, pinballing around dense chunks of supersaturated colors and skittering into clotted smears of dirty brown, soiled yellow, gooey red and spectacular lavender.

Messy drips, flick-of-the-wrist flourishes and vigorously rubbed-out clouds of color happily cohabitate with loose constellations of glass beads, lumps of clay, blobs of papier-mâché and smears of mud.

You rarely get tired of looking at a painting by Snyder because each time you do, your eyes follow a different path. The magic intensifies the more time you spend with the paintings, which hold nothing back.


Parrasch Heijnen Gallery, 1326 S. Boyle Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 943-9373, through June 10. Closed Sundays and Mondays.