New YorkPatsy Krebs: Interlocking Series: Paintings from 1990 to 1995
David Richard Gallery is pleased to present Patsy Krebs, Interlocking Series: Paintings from 1990 to 1995 in her first solo exhibition with the gallery and her first solo show in New York since 2004.
The compositions are comprised of two square or rectangular geometric forms that overlap and appear as though they are interlocking and mostly all in the horizontal orientation. There is one new painting from 2021 that is differentiated by also including 24 ct gold leaf. The spatial depth and sense of volume is achieved by using Flashe paint on canvas. According to the artist, “the velvety and luminous Flashe surface is dead flat (matte) – it has absolutely no reflective capacity, which serves to liberate the color, which just hangs in the air, vis a vis the viewer, so the forms hover, connect, disconnect.”1 Since the surface is matte, the illusory aspect of the geometric forms interlocking is achieved purely through color and specifically, the artist’s selections of colors and values and their interactions to create push or pull effects in the viewer’s mind. There are 13 paintings in the presentation: six large paintings ranging from 36 x 72” up to 48 x 90”; three mid-sized paintings ranging from 20 x 23” to 36 x 28”; and four smaller paintings that range from 12 x 16” to 12 x 24”.
About the Exhibition:
The paintings in this Interlocking series are precise with smooth, matte, pristine surfaces. Their execution is planned, tight, and rigorous, yet, at the same time they are painterly, engaging, full of energy and provoking a range of moods. How can that be? It is because Krebs enjoys the process of painting, the spiritual, rhythmic, meditative acts of applying pigment to the painting support. Her energy, inner most thoughts and emotional connection with the process and medium leaves an indelible mark on the canvas that is only revealed to the viewers who critically look and thoughtfully engage with the paintings.
Moreover, Krebs subtle use of forms and color is so intertwined with her very being that the artist and artwork become one. This is because at the core of the paintings is her quest to animate color, light and form to define a space, both within and beyond the canvas. She strives to deliver not only a visual image to evidence the act of painting and see with the eye, but a transcendence that only comes from looking beyond the image and from that which is core in the viewer. This transcendence comes from the color, the interaction between the colors on the canvas as well as the forms themselves and interaction between the forms. The intertwining of the forms is both literal in the imagery and metaphorical as the color values, adjacencies and interactions suggest volume and space all aided by the matte surfaces of the paintings that result from the artist’s masterful control and precise application of the pigment with no sheen or reflection of light. Producing a purely absorptive surface.
Recently, Krebs commented about these paintings while looking carefully at the Interlocking series in preparation for this exhibition. She said, “they are pretty self-evident. They obviously make use of relativity to make their point. [ … ] the forms express a kind of notion that things can be both interconnected and autonomous – simultaneously and with no loss of potency.”1
Kreb’s art, and these paintings in particular, convey a range of moods—from bright and upbeat to neutral and contemplative, then at the far end of the spectrum, dark and surreal at a minimum to nearly dystopian. The power of color and Krebs’ awareness and masterful use of that power is exceptional and especially within a single body of work, like the Interlocking series of paintings. It is even more profound given the non-objective nature of the geometric compositions—solely squares or rectangles and pure color. There are no figurative elements nor gestural movements to suggest or trigger a particular image or mood in the viewer, just the pure, flat color.
If someone ever doubted the highly referential, evocative, and semiotic power of color, the range of hues and values in this series of Interlocking paintings will quickly convince them otherwise. The experimentation with this broad range of colors that evokes such contrasting moods is what gives this series breadth. More importantly, that is also what gives the series depth, since the compositions are so similar, it allows for a comparative analysis and a discourse such as this to explore beyond formal issues.
Krebs has been fascinated with the concept of external and interior spaces. As noted below, she frequently draws intellectual inspiration and philosophical grounding for her art in the teachings and writings of the Greeks and other ancient cultures. As it relates to types of spaces, her statement in a recently published book about her paintings is particularly illuminating when she discusses her interest in iconography and how the Greek orthodox described such paintings. Krebs commented, “The icon is described as a place where two worlds meet, where this world meets another world. In our psyche, this is what happens. We have the concrete visible world, and we also have the whole interior world of our mind. And the painting is in some way where those two worlds meet.”2
Thus, it begs the question, are the two interlocking shapes in the Interlocking series of paintings a metaphor for something: two people connected, but still individuals; two distinct, but separate worlds; two parts of our brain, the left brain and right brain; two different ideologies that share some common ground; or all of the above, or maybe, none of the above. That is the beauty of abstract art and the power it holds when in the hands of a master like Krebs, who knows how to see, deeply see, not just look at something on the surface, then, to contemplate and really think genuinely about what she is seeing. And, lastly, experiment with how to best express and convey what she saw in a visual language that will trigger that same energy, sensitivity and empathy in another human being.
It is apparent that the visual language Krebs has mastered is the use of geometry, mostly rectilinear forms, but also curvilinear shapes, combined with color to create her exterior spaces from within her interior space. Timothy App recently wrote regarding Krebs’ paintings that “form becomes color becomes space[ … ]”3, which the Interlocking paintings exemplify. One could also argue that Krebs uses color and light, either in the form of a reflective surface (or not, matte in the case of the Interlocking paintings) as well as color values to create contrasts, both subtle and high contrast to generate the range of possible moods within her compositions.
About the Paintings of Patsy Krebs:
At the core and from early on, Patsy Krebs’ paintings are rooted in geometric shapes and color as well as abstraction. As the 1970s came around and Minimalism took hold, Krebs adopted that clean, reductive approach to her process and work. The subtle repetition of geometric shapes in several of her well known and recent series — Post and Lintel, Winter and Hibernal Dreams — reference minimalist interests in seriality, but beyond that, Krebs’ paintings depart philosophically from Minimalism because they are painterly and full of meaning. They are not just random shapes or mark making. Everything is critically planned and executed by the artist with her own hand.
Following Krebs’ move to New York in the early 1960s and many visits with artists in Lower Manhattan, she knew intellectually that she was interested in “making space.”4 Formally, she was interested in how light, pigment and surface interacted and when combined with repetition and pattern could create illusions of depth, volume and space. Conceptually, she realized her interests were more nuanced as she wanted to use what she saw and combine that with her analytical thinking and philosophical underpinnings from ancient teachings to develop her process and visual language that could then take what was in her interior space (her mind, memories and passions) and use that to connect with the interior spaces of the viewers through the external space of the imagery in her paintings.
None of this should be surprising given her very early affiliations with Park Place gallery and the various founding members. That collective of ten artists (five painters and five sculptors) located in lower Manhattan, most of whom migrated from the Bay Area of Northern California and coalesced around their shared interest in the complexities of space and portraying it on flat two-dimensional surfaces and in three-dimensional structures, included Dean Fleming, Leo Valledor, Mark di Suvero, Peter Forakis and others.
The natural world and the solitude that one experiences in nature: appreciating the light and open skies; contemplating the patterns and cycles of the days and seasons; the diversity of species and grandeur of the landscape are all sources of energy for Krebs. Moving back to California in the late 1960s and having a retreat off the grid in Colorado fed her soul and renewed her mind—and still does today. Her frequent returns to nature and being able to think critically and quietly are important checks and balances for Krebs’ psyche and art.
Despite Krebs’ educational and professional experiences and affiliations, Mija Riedel noted that “It was, however, Krebs independent travels and studies that established her long-term interests in: ancient cultures and architecture, the intricacies of nature and multiple languages—aesthetic, scientific and philosophical—with which nature is understood and Interpreted.”5
Krebs work is very personal to her, almost spiritual, rooted in ancient histories and mythologies, diverse cultures and the natural world all under a veneer of the formal qualities of reductive geometric forms, curvilinear shapes (from her earlier work), clean lines and subtle pattern. There is a consistency and cohesion that keeps her work on the noted personal trajectory (versus a purely commercial path) which is the passionate use and interplay of color and light that conveys the space that we see on the support as well as the one in the viewer’s mind.
About Patsy Krebs:
Patsy Krebs, a native of California, at the age of nineteen moved to New York in 1963 and became part of the vibrant art scene jn lower Manhattan. There, she met a number of New York artists, including a number of Northern California transplants including Dean Fleming, Leo Valledor, Mark di Suvero, Peter Forakis, Edwin Ruda and others who, like Krebs, shared a common interest in the concepts of space and how to portray such complexities in two and three-dimensional artworks. Later that same year, Krebs moved with Dean Fleming to Pittsburgh. While Fleming was teaching at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, she decided to take a course in color theory, which completely changed how she thought about and approached painting. Since then, she leveraged color, interactions between colors and value differences to bring light into her paintings, controlling opacity and translucency to not only create her compositions but to give them depth and soul.
In 1964 Krebs and Fleming traveled together through the Mediterranean and Northern Africa to experience the geometric forms and patterns in the rugs and textiles, mosaics and tiles, and architecture. After returning to New York she worked on her large-scale elliptical paintings. Later in the 60s she moved back to California in the Los Angeles area and earned her MFA from the Clarermont Graduate University. In the mid-1980s she moved back to Northern California and also built a small retreat off-the-grid in Colorado where, to this day, she still splits her time between the two locations.
Krebs has had 50 solo exhibitions in galleries and museums across the US since 1972 when she began her professional career as an artist. She has been the recipient of two Shetland Visiting Residencies in the UK (2020 and 2018); two Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grants (2010 and 1996); a National Endowment For the Arts Grant (1991), and an Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Grant (1986). Her exhibitions have been reviewed and featured in numerous publications including: San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Times, Art In America, Artnews, Artweek, Artscene, Artspace, LA Weekly among others.
Krebs artworks are included in the collections of the following select public collections as well as numerous private collections:
Achenbach Foundation of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, CA
Berkeley Museum of Art, Berkeley, CA
Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY
Colorado University Art Museum, Boulder, CO
Crocker Art Museum, Sacarmento, CA
Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO
de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara, CA
Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA
Mills College Museum of Art, Oakland, CA
Norton Museum, West Palm Beach, FL
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
San Jose Museum of Modern Art, San Jose, CA
Santa Barbara Museum of Modern Art, Santa Barbara, CA
1 Email exchange Between Patsy Krebs and David Eichholtz, July 21, 2021
2,4,5 Mija Riedel, “The Numinous Edge”, 2016, in Painting | Patsy Krebs (Kensington: Red Berry Editions, 2016) 4, 5, 8
3 Timothy App, “Radiating Light: Color, Form and Contemplation in Paintings of Patsy Krebs”, 2016, in Painting | Patsy Krebs (Kensington: Red Berry Editions, 2016) 15
Courtesy of the artist and David Richard Gallery