In her first solo exhibit at LMAK Gallery in the Lower East Side, artist Erika Ranee channeled explosions of various emotionally charged energies all while exploring painting by pushing materials around a two-dimensional surface. Looking at the paintings in the exhibition brings to mind Georg Baselitz’s infamous interview with Spiegel Online International magazine where he stated: “Women don’t paint very well.” Ranee completely contradicts this exact statement, breaking down the machismo which is still all-too prevalent in contemporary art. Also, like Baselitz stated earlier in the same interview about his own paintings, each and every single one of Ranee’s paintings are battles. There are battles between restraint and outbursts, abstraction and figurative, against the archival, against painting itself, and finally against herself.
For example, in just the two biggest paintings, Ipswitch (2016) and Big People (2016), one can see many of those battles going on. Comparatively, Ipswitch (2016) demonstrates the most restraint out of all the works in the show, whereas Big People (2016) on the other hand, demonstrates the most chaos. Also displayed are Ranee’s physicality in her process of painting, which often include pouring, and dripping by tilting the canvas in various directions, creating a base ground for her paintings, and editing through swiping away big areas at a time, and embellishing through the use of spray paints, tape, and in some cases like Bayswater, (2016) actual plants. In addition to all of this, Ranee further explores shellac by adding raw pigments in order to create the illusion of, as the title states, Gasoline Rainbows– a term coined by the American author JD Salinger describing the oil puddles that float on top of water after a rainfall. The title is fitting, but ironic in a way since the base of Ranee’s paintings are acrylic. Shellac, a top surface layer, seems to be used in as a way of linking abstract gestures to something referential, such as text, the figure, or nature. Sometimes, the proposed connection between material and subject is quite obvious, like the figure that appears in the positive space of Ipswitch (2016), and other times, almost forced, as seen in Fucked Up Flowers (2016).
In these smaller works, where she focuses on a mark that one would see in her bigger paintings, she limits the surface on which she has to work on expanding her vocabulary by narrowing down on each mark. An example of this is in Sea Legs (2016) and Waves (2016), where the marks shown are evocative of a very specific moment or scene. These smaller works are also a product of a different kind of environment since they are made outside
of the studio, in her own home. Perhaps the artist needed the comfort of a home, away from the disarray of a studio in order to create these drawings that would result in relevant notations bringing the show together. Ranee has created large-scale and medium-scale works in this exhibition that tip-toe on the border of control within the realm of abstraction and result in a beautiful culmination of calculated chaos. In the end, she proves that she has accomplished the latter, specifically in the smaller works on paper and canvas pads.