Ellen Kahn does different things, but this show was all about Alice. Yes, that Alice; in Wonderland. Well, was it? These paintings I looked at the way I look at DeKooning, or Manet, with a special appreciation for the movement and the feel of paint on the surface. In fact, each image, though it had a segment of text from the story by Lewis Carroll, was a purely visual statement, and I, for one, never once felt compelled to read it. Each text overlay a traced line interpretation of one, or more of the John Tenniel Alice illustrations, with an occasional floral motif, and the articulations of the background paint.
This look of the double and triple “exposure” must derive from the technique the artist probably used to make the images: the traced projection. That, at least, is the way they appeared to me. As such, the line work here is not an example of strong draughtsmanship of the type that throws a line down with force, and makes you see a form turning in space. But Ms. Kahn retains her integrity. These lines have another function: they refract the surface with a delicate, spiderweb-like tracery. They are like the only sometimes barely discerned edges of fine crystal goblets. They move the eye in a spreading motion rather than directing traffic.
I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Alice in Wonderland has a very special place in this artist’s heart. The show reminded me that Alice has a very special place in my heart. This, despite my not reading the text in the pictures. Nor would it be surprising to discover that Alice has a special place in the hearts of many of the visitors to the 440 Gallery. Yes, and they’ll all want to come back to the next Ellen Kahn show to see what Alice gets up to next.
440 6th Avenue
Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Thursdays and Fridays from 4 - 7 p. m.
Saturdays and Sundays from 12 - 6 p. m.
The 440 Gallery is convenient to the F Train's 4th Avenue and 7th Avenue Stops, and to the R Train's 9th Steet Stop in Park Slope, Brooklyn.