In her third solo show at Stone, Lorraine Shemesh, a New York-based
artist, showed paintings and drawings executed in a candid realist
mode, as well as several pictorial quilts. The easel-size oils and
drawings evidence Shemeshs ongoing obsession with everyday
objects such as beach balls, flip-flop sandals, lox and bagels,
and womens bathing suits.
The brightly colored paintings owe a great deal to
the example of Wayne Thiebaud, in particular his still lifes. In
for instance, ten or so pairs of this most prosaic (yet exotic)
variety of footwear, arranged toe to heel, resemble a school of
tropical fish wriggling its way upward into a neutral Thiebaudian
space that heightens the shoes individual and collective "character."
With their wandering laces and multi-hued design (most are half
green, half red, with yellowish stripes and blue tips), these shoes
project an initial charm that, upon longer perusal, is superseded
not only by ones admiration for the skillful rendering but
also by the wit and intelligence of Shemeshs socio-cultural
eye. Accouterments of what is undeniably a non-elitist pastime,
these bowling shoes mimic the movements of the masses: and only
the size number on the heel truly distinguishes one pair of feet
Meyer Schapiro has called Thiebauds homages
to the commonplace "mementos of the ephemeral and death."
Shemeshs displays also often have a dark side, as in the acidulous
This trio of desperately sentimental candy boxes has mortality written
all over it. Shemeshs typically high-gloss oils, applied in
wide, swift strokes or short squiggles, add to the tainted appeal
of these Valentines Day time bombs: the heart-shaped red and
pink containers with large bows conceal (and exude) a sugar high
that could kill an ox.
Shemeshs graphite drawings are executed in
a drier realist manner. The best of them, Menagerie,
has a decidedly supernatural aura about it: a pile of rubber gloves
is lit from below so that the three that appear to stick up randomly
at the top cast pictorial shadows on the walla swan, a rabbit,
and a giraffe. These spooky creatures would fit nicely into a horror
film as the eventual possessors of some peaceful suburban household.
All four quilts in the show are figurative. They
depict scenes of exuberance or exhilaration, each marked by a touch
of the surreal. For example, one of a group of ballet dancers, (Jump)
has put a little extra into her leap and sails off the top of the
quilt; or the girl occupying the rear seat of a roller coaster car,
hangs on for dear life, her body stretched out like a flag in a
stiff wind. While humorous, well-made and attractive the quilts
are one-liners when hung alongside Shemeshs provocative, culture-conscious
oils and drawings. The quilts are meant to serve as bedspreads,
the still lifes to throw light upon the foibles of material excess
that increasingly influence our existence.
Little, Carl, Lorraine Shemesh at Allan Stone.
Art in America. (September 1988): 189.