Installation view of Marcia Hafif's Fresco Paintings at Larry Becker Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
In yoga, it's not all about contorted positions. An essential part of the process is to focus on the breath. As the air fills the lungs, the muscles stretch, the space between the joints expands, your inner chatter quiets; then, even as the air goes out, that openness remains. With each breath the sense of of quiet and openness increases. You end a session more connected to the oneness of everything.
This is what it's like to view paintings by Marcia Hafif. Except it's about color, not breath. Hafif is a monochromist, or at least she was until recently. With, Fresco Paintings, the new series she's showing at Larry Becker Contemporary Art, there are two colors in her paintings. The format varies only slightly from painting to painting. Divided vertically, there's a neutral white field and one with a rich, almost glowing, earth hue like terre verte, raw sienna, or Italian brown pink—transparent fresco colors that give the series its name. The division, which doesn't vary percentually, is about 60 percent color, applied with a flat, maybe filbert, brush so that the strokes give depth and richness to the hue, and 40 percent "white." Looking closer, you realize that the "white" is actually a very pale blue, and that the degree of paleness differs from painting to painting. The slower you look, the more you see.
The works are installed around the gallery so that colored field faces colored field, solid faces solid
Fresco: Italian Brown Pink Lake NY 09 2, 2009, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches
In the second gallery are paintings from Hafif's Table of Pigments series from 1991. Each painting features one hand-milled hue. I've always liked these paintings, with their chromatic richness coming as much from a surface of impasto-like brush strokes as from the refraction of the pigments themselves. Gallerists Larry Becker and Heidi Nivling have selected six.
In the second gallery: Hafif's Table of Pigments: Cerulean Blue, Pthalocyanine Green, and Cadmium Yellow Deep, all 1991, oil on canvas, 22 x 22 inches
Below: a photograph showing the entire series. That's Nivling's hand in the picture