Tamuna Sirbiladze

New York

at James Fuentes


Tamuna Sirbiladze’s oilstick and pastel works give an impression of movement first and a vague sense of representation second. Six such pieces from 2015, all done on unprimed canvas and all but one sharing the same large dimensions (76¾ by 114 inches), made up her clean and orderly show. Thanks to the focused selection and an even installation, the works projected their energetic content clearly and forcefully into the room.

“‘Good enough’ is never good enough” follows the artist’s well-received New York solo debut at Half Gallery earlier this year. That show, titled “Take it Easy,” featured walls painted with dense swipes of jungle green. Earlier exhibitions in Vienna and London also experimented with presentation, sometimes leaning works against each other or hanging them over windows so that light shone through the canvas. At James Fuentes, however, the display was pared down to white-cube convention, limiting expressive potential to the works themselves, rather than allowing any flourish or idiosyncrasy in their placement.

Breaking the waves was perhaps the most striking among them. Areas colored broadly with bright yellow pastel accompany long royal blue strokes and open-ended shapes. Sirbiladze’s line is spare; abundant, creamy negative space supports the gentle diagonal flow of marks anchored by dishlike forms. Gray has been used for brief wavy lines at the top, and for the suggestion of a human form cradled amid the blue and yellow strokes. Nipples faintly appear on two of the gray lines that are emphasized by repeated drawing, unlike most of the other lines, which are made by single gestures that are not revisited. To the right there is an intimation of a head with an arm outlined below it. Analyzing the components of these pieces, however, takes away their enchanting quality. As a whole, breaking the waves is replete with movement and flow, delivered by sparing means.

These works could have easily slipped into decoration, as earlier series by Sirbiladze arguably have. But they maintain a consistent force in their abstraction. The suggestion of a face, for example, in Andre Breton is allowed to surface as a sinister, partially concealed pair of eyes in a dense field of swooping and glancing lines. Elsewhere, the viewer could notice distinct variances among the six works, from broadly lilting, rounded lines to rapid crosshatching, evocative of the different tempos at which the works were made. In double/one who meant one one of the time, the texture of the piece’s wooden stretcher was deliberately exposed by rubbing the pastel over the canvas surface. In which it is whether they went with it, too, registers the aggression of the artist’s gestures. It is also the most figurative, with the curves and genitalia of a female body visible.

“’Good enough’ is never good enough” was a convincing and consistent exhibition. These canvases harbor a memorable charge. Highly expressive, but nonetheless measured, they convey a clear and personal sense of artistic purpose.