The Pérez Art Museum Miami unveiled the most comprehensive showing ever of Lynne Golob Gelfman‘s work this past weekend. The show, Grids, features 20 of Gelfman’s paintings—spanning various series, inspirations and methods since she began painting in 1971.
Gelfman is a self-described trickster; when she begins on a piece, she says “the trickster enters.” The traditionally trained artist has forged a longstanding career built on rule-bending and convention-breaking. Perhaps the most notable instance being her purposeful painting on the backs of her canvases. The established grid is then disrupted by the paint from the back bleeding through to the front. It turns into something new entirely. “They were all based on a plan, and then it’s sort of a game of chance—how much you can control and how much you can let go because these are painted from the back,” she says.
A move to Miami from New York City—leaving a rigid scene where art had to be “autonomous” from real life and entering a world defined by obscured rules—urged her new work to be indistinguishable from the art and reality around her. Her methods, Gelfman admits, were motivated by this move. Her process, in a vision sense, is closer to that of a basketmaker than a painter—an appreciation for the medium came from her time spent in Colombia, where she lived, worked and learned about indigenous textiles and weaving techniques.
“They [the paintings] all start with a certain repetitive ritual—more like a system or more like a weaver. And then that system somehow gets invaded. There are paintings that are based on chain-links that get invaded by light—so they’re no longer rigid chain-links, they’re sort of dissolving like water,” she explains.
Aspects of life in Miami (the chain-link fences and shimmering light reflecting off the coastal waters) are obviously referenced in her work. But it’s how she takes something from around her, something she’s experienced and turns it into art that is fascinating. Her process, and how it spans from inspiration source to the risk of leaving a bit to chance, is evident on the canvas (or, in some of her works, the wood). “There are some other paintings that use a metallic flash paint. And these two paintings are placed in front of a window where there’s strong light so that the paintings suggest, let’s say, dunes or a sort of more fluid pattern but when the light hits it, it changes radically as you move around it,” she continues.
This is consistent in some of Gelfman’s other works, too. When referring to the works where she’s painted back to front, she says, “The order sort of dissolves and the viewer is not sure whether they’re looking at the front or the back of something.” This fluidity and looseness (that’s rooted in the aforementioned admiration of Colombian weavers and basketmakers) transcends the rigidity of traditional art processes and becomes something Gelfman adores. “The artisan has a plan, but they’re free to meander and do what they want,” she explains, “The spirit of that is deeply embedded in everything I do.”
Images courtesy of Lynne Golob Gelfman