Review: Joan Snyder at Solway-Jones Gallery


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The six paintings and four prints in veteran New York artist Joan Snyder’s L.A. solo debut are vintage Snyder: chewy clots of mismatched materials wrestled into abstract images that are lyrical without being lightweight, visceral without being heavy-handed.

At the Solway-Jones Gallery, the fleshy physicality and broken-bones impact begins with the stuff Snyder uses. Into her gooey mixes of dripping acrylics and runny oils she sprinkles seeds, herbs, twigs, glitter and nails. She contains these stews with nest-like enclosures sculpted from papier-mâché and torn strips of fabric. When they dry, they have the presence of wounded flesh, freshly scabbed over yet too sensitive to touch. Think of these parts of her paintings as scars in the making.


The soaring lyricism in Snyder’s otherwise dark art comes through via her capacity to make paint sing. She slaps gestures together with the best of them without wasting a move or missing a beat.

There’s a no-nonsense frugality to her funky art, which is nothing if not serious. There’s also great pleasure, which comes with the wisdom of knowing what you can do and then doing more than that for reasons you can’t quite explain.

It’s odd for an artist of Snyder’s stature to be having her first solo show in L.A. It’s doubly so because her go-it-alone, category-be-damned, DIY-style rhymes so well with so much of the best painting made in L.A.

-- David Pagel

Solway-Jones Gallery, 990 N. Hill St., No. 180, L.A., (323) 223-0224, through April 11. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Above: Joan Snyder’s ‘Life of a Tree’ (2007), oil, acrylic, cloth, berries, papier-mâché, glitter,
nails, pastel, on linen. Credit: Solway-Jones