By John Held, Jr.
685 Market Street
San Francisco, CA
March 7-April 27, 2013
What makes a great painter? It’s the surety of stroke. The making of marks without hesitation, steeped in a proven past of artistic practice. Jasper Johns has it. There’s never a wasted line. It’s the equivalent of an Ernest Hemingway short story. Never a word wasted. Using a sentence of ten words to convey meaning when others meander on and on saying exactly the same thing.
As a young college student forced to take a summer job as a housepainter with a seasoned professional, I learned an important lesson. Yes, I did a credible job in detailing the window frame, but it took me three times as long as my more experienced colleague. That was the difference between professional and amateur. While I dithered unsteady and uncertain, with sureness of stroke, he was on to the next project.
In Naomie Kremer’s paintings, there are thousands of stokes, but none seem wasted and all seem to build towards a crescendo of unimaginable harmony. I marvel at her confidence, because no one can foretell where a work like this is leading. It’s built from within, a confidence and dexterity of hand that flows from one work to another. Each painting is a universe unto itself. Like the law of the mystics that proclaim, “as above, so below,” you can step back from her work, or you can put your nose against it, and it all makes sense. Each grain of sand as significant as the other and representative of the entire whole.
Do I sound like a fan? I am. This is her thirteenth exhibition at Modernism since 1997, and I’ve been privy to many of them. The range of work in the current exhibition dates from 1993 to 2013, with the older work just as fresh as the current batch. The exhibition announcement features “This Much,” a large (74” x 95 ½”) breakthrough work in pastel, acrylic and charcoal on paper from 1993.
More recently, Kremer has experimented with video projected over her works in oil, most successfully, “Chance Operations” (2011), which finds her literally transported into the work, producing the various marks that compose the painting. Its action painting at it’s finest and a treat to follow the path of the artist as the work is conceptually and compositionally composed.
This has spilled over into theatrical presentation. She has designed the visuals and projected video for the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company (“Light Moves,” 2011), and the just recently concluded, “The Secret Garden,” which was presented by Cal Performances and the San Francisco Opera at Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, the first two weekends of March 2013. Two works of oil on canvas, “Secret Garden I” (2013) and “Secret Garden II” (2013), are included in the current Modernism exhibition.
Text has been creeping into her work. Not only in the 2010 oil on linen, “Poetic License,” but in another mixed media video projected work, “Dictionary” (2008). But nothing is ever fully explained, and like the abstract painting, it’s up to the viewer to complete the picture.
As a colorist, it doesn’t get much better. She has been cited as having been influenced by Claude Monet in this regard. Other influences that come to mind include the brushwork of Willem de Kooning. But to my mind, Kremer stands alone in a world of her own devising. She’s the real deal.