Painting is its own language, framed uniquely by material, method, history, and myriad other factors. Of course, all creative disciplines define themselves by particular syntaxes and vocabularies, but – ever since photography liberated painting from its indexical responsibilities – painting manifests a self-reflection as notable as it is practical. In its density and sophistication, Ellen Grobman’s work clarifies the visual articulation peculiar to painting, capitalizing (among other things) on its material richness, its indulgence in color, its reliance on shape, and the weight and vastness of its tradition(s) in Western artistic practice.
Grobman is a consummate painter, not so much in the range of her vocabulary as in her ability to employ it to many markedly different effects, concepts, and even purposes. She might invite misunderstanding with such breadth of form and manner; but, in an artistic milieu that honors shape-shifters from Picasso to Richter, we now know that painters not only have the license, but have the need, to variegate their approaches, and certainly their imagery. In the case of a confident yet reflective artist like Grobman, whose lyric touch and sense of play maintain throughout her work, that license is earned and that need demonstrated by a consistency of sensibility. She does not indulge self-consciously in a gallimaufry of patterns and textures and hues; rather, she draws from a universe of marks and ideas and animates them with both strategic compositional decisions and a vital touch
Every one of Ellen Grobman’s paintings declares its origins even as it diverges from its siblings. However much or little any Grobman painting might look like any other, it feels as if it has come from the same hand – and restless mind.