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Message in a bottle: Eve Rosen’s etching Woman at Bar.

New Face on the Landscape
By David Brickman

Eve Rosen
Bethlehem Public Library, through May 31

Though the Capital Region has seen a boom recently in new exhibition spaces, opportunities for emerging artists to show larger bodies of work in established art venues are still fairly difficult to come by. How to get beyond the stage of having two or three pieces accepted into group shows a couple of times a year? Alternative spaces—restaurants, theaters and libraries among them—offer an option for people who are looking to get to that next step by putting together a solo show and, often, promoting it on their own.

One person who has exercised that option is Eve Rosen, an artist in mid-career who recently returned to the area after a very long absence. Her collection of mostly watercolors and etchings at the Bethlehem Public Library in Delmar is a nice debut of professional quality that takes full advantage of the well-lit, hanging-system-equipped space the library provides in its ample entrance foyer.

Rosen, who earned a BFA in painting and sculpture from Boston University in 1975 and then emigrated to Israel, comes from an artistic family—her father, Hy, was for many years the political cartoonist for the Times Union and is an exhibiting artist as well. But her training, experience and temperament are distinctly different from her father’s.

After continuing her studies by learning printmaking techniques in Tel Aviv, Rosen spent many years teaching and exhibiting there. The show at the library represents a cross section of work from the mid-’80s through this year, including a few drawings and woodcuts along with the etchings and watercolors, and a single oil painting, making 29 works in all.

In the watercolors there is a flavor reminiscent of the Fauves, both in color and design. They are nearly all landscapes, presumably painted on the scene, with a delicacy that speaks of a very different time and place than much of the art of her contemporaries. Rosen cites the practice of tai chi as an influence in her work; one can also discern some of the same Asian influence that played a big role in establishing the style of the French and American impressionists more than a hundred years ago.

The best of the paintings is a quite small one (about 6 inches by 8 inches) depicting a hilly landscape with large rock outcrops buttressing a steep gorge. The strong color and composition combine with bold black brushstrokes to give this 1987 work a forcefulness that belies its size.

Another similar-sized piece from 1998 takes the same strengths to a greater limit of near-abstraction, allowing the layers of paint to loosely overlap and build on more complex color relationships. This watercolor succeeds where some of Rosen’s more representational works fall short.

Among the larger paintings in the show are two closely related compositions of graceful trees in a parklike setting that date from 1985 and 2001. Their relaxed quality brought to mind the work of Maurice Prendergast, who also liked to paint in parks.

The same sort of subject matter permeates most of the 11 etchings and the two drawings in the show, forming the core of Rosen’s work as presented here. An interesting and fairly unusual aspect of the presentation is that the etchings are set up in pairs with different ink colors and values, creating a contrast between the prints in each pair.

One such juxtaposition shows purple and bright green variations on a study of a tree from 2001. Others include soft-ground etchings made from a collage of leaves that end up depicting an apple—this pair, with subtle blue variations, printed 15 years apart—and a similarly collaged soft-ground etching with drypoint from 2002 that evokes a dragonfly in the woods and is presented in purple and blue variations.

Perhaps the best of the etchings is a portrait of a woman at a bar in two variations—sepia and blue—made in 1984 and 2003 respectively, with a strong French/Japanese look to it. For fans of this sort of printmaking, it’s sure to be a delight, as a frank yet subtle interpretation of a universally familiar scene. With the woman’s downcast eyes and jaunty body posture, and the two bottles on the bar, it could be seen as celebratory or sympathetic—or both at the same time.

In addition to the broad selection of work at the library, Rosen’s prints can be seen in Saratoga Springs at Gallery 100, which is currently presenting a group show titled Works on Paper, also through May 31. Gallery 100, a year-old space that recently reopened after winter-break renovations, shows great promise as a commercial venture with ambition and high standards—I recommend it.

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