Feb 092013

Deborah Zlotsky

Start looking at these painting thinking in terms of accident, depth and drips, not the usual sorts of things one thinks about experiencing art. Think of them as works that begin with a chance conception, a moment of perception, a hunch that grows and accretes by, yes, reflecting the subterranean structures of the artist’s mind (must be, right?). Deborah  Zlotsky‘s paintings have a monumental quality, an architectural quality (I like that phrase from geology “accreted terrane”). At first glance they work by creating a drama of thrusting bulky forms and receding spaces, composed of flat planes and angles, lighter colours and darker colours. But peer closer and the flat surfaces resolve into a textured density of drips, lines, drools (okay, maybe there is a better word but I like it) and craters. These do not show up so well in a digital reproduction on your computer screen or Ipad. So trust me. Here is a link to a lovely and really informative video interview with Deborah Zlotsky which gives you a better look at some of this detailing. The interview was filmed during a 2011 show at the Kathryn Markel Gallery in New York. And here is a very intelligent essay by Viktor Witkowski on Deborah Zlotsky’s paintings, tracking the context for the accidental in art back through Paul Klee to the early Modernist German Romantics and painters like Kaspar Friedrich. And here, below, are the artist’s own words, in response to an email I sent her about the paintings; it was so good I just copied the whole thing here.


Brief note about the work.   Yes, painting and writing are similar, though of course I am fluent in a visual language only, when it comes to being creative. I can think of ideas for novels and films (to the annoyance of my husband!), but never the fleshing out, the creating of nuances and connections and tensions. I can do this fleshing out with painting however. When I paint, I do it for the same reason I read a good novel—to find out what happens, to see how crazy and screwed up things get, but also how some sort of balance or idea prevails. When I begin a painting, I start with something both accidental and familiar—a few colors, a few shapes. I might have a tiny idea, a faint memory of the way sunlight moved through my grandmother’s apartment or a notion about the sensory lushness of a flower’s complexity or a pile of laundry. These initial colors and shapes start a process of discovering unintended proximities and relationships, of finding logic and meaning in the unique situation that emerges. For me, beauty is bound up with accumulation and time and the realization of the necessity of change.  The first marks and shapes are catalysts for a process that requires me to constantly reevaluate what’s important so I can find out what the painting will be.

—Deborah Zlotsky

Be-all (oil on canvas, 60×48 inches. 2012)

Waiting room oil on canvas, 60x48 inches. 2011Can the devil speak true? (oil on canvas, 36×36 inches. 2012)


It happened but not to you oil on canvas, 60x48 inches. 2011Derring-do (oil on canvas, 60x48inches. 2012)


Everything must go (oil on canvas, 60×48 inches. 2012)


Insofar (oil on canvas, 60×48 inches. 2012)


Derring-do oil on canvas, 60x48 inches. 2012It happened but not to you (oil on canvas, 60×48 inches. 2012)


Everything must go oil on canvas, 60x48 inches. 2012Not so happy, yet happier (oil on canvas, 60×48 inches. 2012)

Be-all oil on canvas, 60x48 inches. 2012)Waiting Room (oil on canvas, 60×48 inches. 2012)

Waiting Room (oil on canvas, 60×48 inches. 2012).—Deborah Zlotsky


Deborah Zlotsky is a 2012 recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in painting. She is represented by Kathryn Markel Fine Arts in New York. In 2010, she exhibited her work at Pierogi Gallery as the “Artist of the Week” and, in 2006, her work was included in Twice Drawn, a contemporary drawing exhibit curated by Ian Berry at the Tang Museum. Zlotsky’s drawings are in the curated flat files of Pierogi Gallery and The Boston Drawing Project at Joseph Carroll and Sons Gallery, as well as the online-curated registry at The Drawing Center. Her work has been exhibited in shows across the country and is in the collections of Nordstrom, Progressive Insurance, Rutgers University, the Waldorf Astoria, the New York Palace Hotel and the Albany Institute of History and Art, among other private and public collections. Over the past 10 years, Zlotsky has received residency fellowships at Yaddo, VCCA, Ox-Bow, Millay Colony for the Arts, Ragdale Foundation, the Weir Farm Art Center and the Kimmel-Harding-Nelson Center for the Arts. Zlotsky received a BA in Art History from Yale University and an MFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Connecticut.

  5 Responses to “Can the Devil Speak True? Paintings — Deborah Zlotsky”

  1. I love the way you use color! There are such lovely paradoxes in your work. Those colors are so strong but still subtle and segue beautifully into different shades. The lines give each painting a lot of movement yet the geometric shapes are still restful and orderly for my eye. On a separate note, the titles are very intriguing! It’s a pleasure becoming acquainted with your work.

  2. I especially like “It happened but not to you” — title is great, and to follow Tiara, the paradox of the steely robot-ness combined with the cavernous gaps, mouth pried open, intrigue me.

  3. Deborah, my pleasure. Your work is hypnotic. Thanks for sharing it!

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