Who knew an achromatic palette could be so luscious? In “The Moon Ate Me,” her second solo outing at Blum, Rosy Keyser made good on the promise of her gutsy 2007 solo debut with materially idiosyncratic paintings (all works 2009) built on seething blacks, grays, browns and metallics and stealthy whites. With the addition of tactile substances, Keyser enhances these neutrals’ retinal reach, pitting matte and glossy, tarry and feathery, encrusted and diaphanous—in short, the concrete and the allusive.
Of the 19 works, seven large canvases, most approaching 8 by 6 feet, were the show’s focus. Keyser insists on the autonomy of each work, and engages several spatial paradigms. Valentine for a Prizefighter is a low relief that sets a broken “V” made of flattened and sanded beer cans, many riddled with ragged holes, against a splotchy white and silver ground complicated by the loosely stretched canvas’s puckered ripple. Like a lifted hand hiding a face, a lovingly brushed gray rectangle dominates What the Thunder Said, pushing the more turgid painterly action—think a goth Sam Francis—to the margins and emphasizing the canvas’s topography.
Handfuls of sawdust clogsilky strandsof blackened fringe in The Ray. Elaborating on the sculptural proposition of its exposed stretcher bars, the work relates to eight small wall-mounted objects, hanging suitelike in the gallery’s small front room, which variously engage birch bark, perforated leather, broken glass and rusty jigsaw blades. At over 8 feet tall, the spookily magnificent Fever Dream puts its clotted, dynamic surface in the service of a confounding illusionism. White spray paint skitters over areas of black enamel but settles into passages of dye and charcoal, teasing out unexpected spatial rifts. At the top of the canvas, a deformed arabesque in jet-black crushed obsidian looms out of the shadows.
This artist’s range doesn’t reveal equivocation but rather the desire to test limits, to cast a wide net. Four sculptures suggest narrative, albeit dimly. In Shooting at Weathervanes, the best (and largest), a slender steel pole angles out of a chunk of concrete, lofting overhead a wooden bow strung with rough twine. On a nearby wall, a large inkjet print bears a few dark smudges on an ashen ground. Physically spare yet psychically freighted, the work assumes a mythological dimension, evoking the huntress Diana, the sword in the stone and tilting at windmills. Afraid neither of grand themes nor of dirtying her hands, Keyser is onto something big.
Photo: Rosy Keyser: The Ray, 2009, dye, spray paint, sawdust and fringe on stretcher, 90 by 72 inches; at Peter Blum.