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Elizabeth Gilfilen: No Longer, No Later opens at Hunterdon Art Museum in New Jersey
Elizabeth Gilfilen, Tether, 2011. Oil on canvas, 72 x 65 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
CLINTON, NJ.- On February 5, 2012, the Hunterdon Art Museum will open a new exhibition featuring the work of Brooklyn-based artist Elizabeth Gilfilen. For her show at the Museum, four abstract paintings will be installed in the intimate River Gallery space on the second floor. The exhibition will continue through March 25, 2012.

To Elizabeth Gilfilen, the blank canvas is an urgent lure. She doesn’t want to begin; she has to begin. Gilfilen starts her paintings by setting up an atmospheric color that defines the mood of the work. Without a defined palette for each piece, she reacts to the fields of color as she works and selectively integrates new hues that expand on the expected potential color combinations. Gilfilen uses color to provoke our private discomforts and public visual pleasures. Her paintings share a sense of urgency, a result of her style of creating art that reflects her openness to chance and accident.

The title of the show -- No longer, no later -- refers to the artist’s process of creating her paintings. Each work is the result of a combination of elements: color, time and motion. When these parts come together, and the work is complete, it’s as if a fruit has ripened on its vine. It’s time for the painting to leave the studio and be seen. It can stay in the studio no longer, and there is no better time than the present for the piece to be seen.

All four of the works in the show evoke this feeling of urgency. Gilfilen lays paint on the canvas to draw the viewer in. The bulk of the activity occurs near the center of the painting, as in Navel Shed (2011) and Flush (2011). Primarily red, these paintings, completed in late 2011, are viscous and fluid.

In her newest piece, Cusp (2012), Gilfilen lessens the amount of paint on the canvas, switching her focus instead to the negative space left in the work. The paint is applied less thickly than in Navel Shed and Flush, and the viewer can see the brush motions more clearly.

In all her work, Gilfilen’s interest in spatial complexity and layering is apparent. Her generous use of negative space serves to enhance the raw power that comes from the core of the painting. While the activity within Gilfilen’s paintings can be fierce and active, a closer look reveals great restraint and a very concise, specific set of visual cues that she uses to create these abstract representations. Her paintings can appear volatile and deliberate at the same time and piecing that puzzle together results in paintings that are anything but arbitrary.

One of Gilfilen’s earliest memories of art making was making a little book about the story of the chicken and the egg and which came first. For her, painting is much like that age-old question in that she continually questions where the impulse to paint comes from. Does it come from something that she saw or felt that needs to be represented in a creative form or does the actual process of painting create the impulse? In Gilfilen’s case, it doesn’t matter which came first because the inspiration to paint is embedded within her and remains the driving force in her ongoing exigency to create art. No longer, no later is an apt and poignant description of Elizabeth Gilfilen’s process.

Elizabeth Gilfilen was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Cincinnati and her Masters of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University. She recently finished a residency at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation and has participated in exhibitions at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut and The Bronx Museum of Art. She spent five years living in Jersey City, New Jersey and she now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

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