Review: Vivian Suter at The Mistake Room


Since 1983, Vivian Suter has been living and painting in the small town of Panajachel, Guatemala. Her exhibition in one of the galleries at the Mistake Room is an accumulation of eccentrically arranged, unstretched canvases based on her interactions with the lush landscape.

Suter neither titles nor dates her work, and the canvases are displayed not only salon style, but overlapping, draped on the floor and hanging from a rack like carpets in a showroom. The casualness of this installation is intriguing but can’t make up for the fact that the works are of varying interest.

The most engaging paintings are those created in “collaboration” with nature. When Suter’s studio was flooded by hurricanes, she decided to accept the mud and staining that resulted in rough-hewn, abstract compositions. Another splattered and stained canvas is displayed on the floor with a bead of dried leaves down its center. It feels like the object of some mysterious ritual.


However, other paintings are overwrought, expressionist interpretations of nature rather than direct engagements with it. They are perhaps more psychological but feel amateurish.

Indeed, the most interesting image is the photograph that accompanies the news release. It depicts one of Suter’s abstractions hanging from a pole in the forest, where it seems to belong.

The Mistake Room, 1811 E. 20th St., (213) 749-1200, through March 14. Closed Sunday through Tuesday.