It’s going on three years that Jaqueline Cedar has worked in a studio converted from part of her Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, apartment. “I’d been living in a suburban neighborhood for a while and keeping a separate studio in a more indus- trial area. I was ready for a change of scenery,” she says. Cedar works in figuration and abstraction: Figures in her paintings are on abstract backgrounds, creating a subtle discord. Her most recent solo exhibition, “Be real,” at the Steven Zevitas Gallery in Boston, showed drawn figures cut from canvas and placed in abstract fields of sourced fabric. Subtle manipulations—one figure’s feet cut and slightly removed from the rest of the body or a line trailing downward off the frame—can be fascinating, but unsettling to the viewer.
Cedar’s studio allows her a convenient work schedule. No need to block hours for traveling to a studio elsewhere and studio access at any time give her the ability to walk away from her work and return to it as needed. “The ‘thought’ space I enter when I’m in the studio feels completely separate from the living space. When I’m in the studio, I close the door and immerse myself in that world.” When she’s not in the studio, she draws inspiration from her environment in a way different from many New York artists: “I’m based in a fairly suburban area with many large homes and trees, so I walk around a lot and get ideas about space, architecture, light and movement daily.”
In her show at Steven Zevitas Gallery, Cedar collages roughly drawn figures cut from canvas onto grounds of lush fabric. The paper-doll-like figures appear to have some agency. They spark narratives. And, as in life, their environment often squelches or betrays them.
“But how” looks benign enough: A couple strolls beneath a full moon. The crushed velvet background dazzles: a gold and fuchsia sky above the horizon, a woozy field of blue, brown, and white below, which I took for water. Cedar adds a second bottom edge to the scene with a strip of canvas. It crosses behind the ankles of the couple, then drops disturbingly toward the floor.
Where Jacobson revels in edges, Cedar deliberately messes with them. That small gesture of a plummeting border dooms everything, threatening all order. The figures also drop off the bottom of the picture; indeed, they have no feet.
Things are even worse in “All kinds.” Two guys face off on a succulent orange ground. The fellow on the left has the power: He frowns; he stands in a corner drawn with paint. Behind him, painted lines echo and reinforce his stance.
His blanker-faced adversary doesn’t have the painterly illusion of space to prop him up. Rather, it acts against him. The poor guy’s feet have been cut off at the ankles by the line where floor meets wall, and they drift away.
Cedar’s constructed spaces are fictions. She can do anything she wants with them. But we identify with the figures; because they look like us, they feel like ours. When Cedar’s space is in disarray, the figures suffer. Or that’s our projection. It’s all her fiction, of course. Cedar finds the tension between figuration and abstraction in her viewers’ allegiances and expectations, and cranks it up.
More kooky figures can be found alongside colorful hard-edge abstractions in Jaqueline Cedar and Nate Ethier’s two-person exhibition at Brian Morris Gallery and Buddy Warren Inc. (this is one place). I puzzled for a long time as to why this pairing worked so well – on paper, Cedar’s playful dreamscapes and Ethier’s high-key geometry would seem a rough match. But not unlike Dana Schutz, Cedar’s paintings’ rectangular edges have a kind of gravitational pull which yank her figures into a semi-perpendicularity. Within that soft grid, lightning bolts, arrows, and knives fly around obliquely, setting things in motion and speaking to Ethier’s carefully placed diagonals, especially the pointy ones. My two favorite pictures in the show were also the ones that I thought complemented each other best. Cedar’s Time in Thinking shows a nervous looking woman in a kitchen with nervous looking cabinets. She’s holding a knife but other daggers of the mind float in the air along with what are presumably the arms of an intruder. The whole picture exists in a soft atmosphere of light grey and white save for the beam of the flashlight she holds, which is a singing, stinging lemon yellow. Those knives find their corollary in the especially impressive Hike by Ethier. Opposing triangles in bands of saturated color are overlapped with a transparent herringbone pattern of brick shapes, all of which are wading in a sea of yellow at the bottom of the picture. Don’t even try and distinguish foreground from background, just let your eyes float through it.
15 Artists to Watch in 2015 (+ 3)
Posted: 12/16/2014 10:51 am EST
Steven Zevitas, Publisher, New American Paintings
Sometime in early 2007, I became aware of Jaqueline Cedar's work. I was impressed, and, as I often do when work catches me the right way, I reached out to set up a studio visit. Cedar had just finished a BFA at UCLA and had already been accepted to Columbia's prestigious MFA program. She was in transition, so when I visited her it was at her parents' house outside Los Angeles. I walked in, and she had set up a number of large canvases in the living room and, possibly, the kitchen, if I remember correctly. As was quickly evident that day, Cedar is a true natural painter. The work I saw that day was, perhaps, a bit too indebted to Dana Schutz, but it was nevertheless shockingly good for a young painter. She had it all: a fluid and unencumbered line, an intuitive sense of color and fearlessness about working on a heroic scale. It was a great studio visit, and more have taken place since she moved to New York. Each time I have gone to her studio, I have been more and more impressed, but something always told me that she was still coming into her own. In 2014, Cedar found her stride. It is difficult to describe what the change is -- maybe a certain looseness, a more nuanced handling of space -- but whatever it is, it works. I know a number of painters in New York who truly admire her work. Cedar currently has a one-woman show at the artist-run space 106 Green in Brooklyn. If you are in New York, be sure to see it before January 11, 2015, when it closes.
Must See Painting Shows: November/December 2014
Posted: 11/20/2014 2:03 pm EST
Steven Zevitas, Publisher, New American Paintings
I want to give a special shout out to one of my favorite emerging painters, Jaqueline Cedar, who has four new large-scale paintings at Gallery 106 Green in Brooklyn. I first did a studio visit with her when she was finishing her B.F.A. at UCLA, and she was already a skilled painter. She subsequently attended Columbia and since graduating in 2009 has only gotten stronger and stronger. Be sure to check the show out.
10 Must-See Painting Shows In The US: Summer Heat Edition
Posted: 7/18/11 01:31 AM ET
Steven Zevitas, Publisher, New American Paintings
Painting, Alfred Jensen, Andrew Masullo, Chris Dorland, Chris Johanson, Jaqueline Cedar, John Sonsini, Katherine Bernhardt, Leidy Churchman, Lesley Vance, Merlin James, New American Paintings, Nicole Eisenman, Slidepollajax, Arts News
The summer months are traditionally a slow period for commercial galleries, as collectors abandon large cities and migrate to vacation destinations around the country. With this in mind, galleries are bit more willing to experiment with their programming. And so, July and August have become a popular time to mount group exhibitions. In some cases these shows are little more than a chance to bring languishing inventory out of the back room, but, fortunately, many galleries mount serious thematic exhibitions that are well worth a visit.
IN THE STUDIO: JAQUELINE CEDAR
December 10, 2010, 1:00 pm
Way down in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in a studio building a stone's throw from the water's edge of Gowanus Bay, Jaqueline Cedar is pushing pink paint around on a canvas. Included in edition #73 of New American Paintings, Cedar teaches painting at Columbia and works in the education department of the Guggenheim, but her most important role is working as an artist. And her recent work is pretty exciting.
Fascinated by Arshile Gorky and Orphic Cubism, Cedar's work pushes and pulls figures back and forth between rich geometric backdrops of abstraction, constantly toying with figuration, color, form, and space. She often works on several paintings at a time, and Cedar isn't afraid of constantly moving around. She lives in Little Italy, works uptown, and commutes to her studio not far from the tail end of the N train in Brooklyn. I stopped by for a studio visit this week. More photos after the jump. - Evan J. Garza
Review by Robert Egert
It’s unusual and refreshing to see ambitious, large-scale paintings today, especially from an artist just starting her career. Jaqueline Cedar’s new paintings manifest an admirable attempt to synthesize and reinvigorate figurative abstraction and to reconnect with themes and formal issues that have mostly been retired into art history books.
Citing Paul Klee and Orphism (If like me, you need a refresher, Orphism was an art movement of the early twentieth century that focused on bright, colorful abstraction in a shallow, lenticular space), Cedar uses the figure as a starting point for a fragmented environment filled with light, color and movement. Cedar’s paintings are reliant upon large scale for the optical effects that happen when the viewers’ field of vision is practically filled with the canvas.
Unlike the Orphists however, Cedar never relinquishes her hold on the figures. While they become visually fragmented and non-specific, gestures and placement take a dominant role. These compositions suggest narratives that are not so much about real world events but rather theoretical or symbolic in nature. For example, they may refer metaphorically to stages of psychosocial development that occur over a decade in a child’s life. Alternatively they may stand for stages of emotional evolution that occur through ritual or life-altering events. In fact, the painterly treatment of the figures is so non-specific (feet disappear, facial features are merely suggested) that we are forced to understand the figures as representations of concepts.
While Cedar still has many career chapters ahead, her paintings are admirable for their ambition, color handling and seemingly effortless integration of esoteric themes. In an interview accompanying the exhibition, Cedar states that she intends on developing much smaller scale paintings. It will be interesting to see how her work morphs as the smaller scale will likely require an entirely different formal approach.
C L I F F O R D
C H A N C E
For the nineteenth exhibition in the Projects at Clifford Chance series, we are pleased to present a show of new figurative paintings, Forms of Figuration.
Dinaburg Arts LLC
Curator, Clifford Chance US LLP
31 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
forms of figuration
jaqueline cedar / amy
pleasant / casey ruble /
1/22/08 – 3/31/08
The potential of figurative painting for intimacy and narrative emphasis, as well as thematic exploration is brought to bear in the paintings of Jaqueline Cedar. Pairing a figurative style with self-generated imagery and formal composition appropriated from her photographic practice, Cedar’s paintings combine painterly gestures with articulated surfaces, oblique perspective shifts with flatness–the scenes wavering between depiction, memory, and fantasy.
João Ribas is an art critic, curator, and editor based in New York.