John Ashbery on Jane Freilicher

Jane Freilicher, Twelfth Street and Beyond, 1976, oil on linen, 50 by 60 inches
Jane Freilicher, Twelfth Street and Beyond, 1976, oil on linen, 50 by 60 inches (courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York)

Reprint of a classic John Ashbery review of Jane Freilicher's 1975 show at Fischbach Gallery, New York. Freilicher passed away earlier this week.

Ashbery notes that: "The swift transition from style to style is one of the most remarkable things in Freilicher's painting. The denotative and connotative jostle each other, with no fixed boundaries; a rough tangle of brushwork menaces a sleekly realistic passage. A field as minutely painted as Ruysdael would have done it leads to a cloud on the horizon which really isn't a cloud but a brushstroke. 'Non-representational' painting is always lurking in the background, or the foreground for that matter, of an ostensibly straightforward account of a landscape, and of course landscape is like that; the eye deals with some of it and neglects the rest. Other painters have made the point, but in Jane Freilicher's case the transitions are so gradual, the differences so close, that her grammar of styles can easily go unnoticed. The viewer imagines he is looking at an 'objective' account of trees or a table top without realizing that they have been dismantled and put back together again almost seamlessly."