Kenneth Baker reviews Sherie' Franssen's "Flesh & Blood" San Francisco Chronicle

October 2012

by Kenneth Baker

Franssen's fourth: Southern California painter Sherie' Franssen turns in a fourth solo show at Dolby Chadwick.

Any visitor who knows her work will recognize it instantly, but may be surprised to find her moving - well, "backward" is too tendentious a word - but to a place she has already visited.

Human figments have haunted Franssen's art since I first saw it, partly because painting tradition has embedded them so deeply and partly because they offer her armatures on which to hang her painting process.

Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) made his name with paintings titled "Woman" that gave flesh to female phantoms from popular culture and his imagination with bravura brushwork and unstinting color. Franssen has not yet been able to step outside de Kooning's shadow, but there are worse, more airless spots in which a painter might find herself.

Like her hero, Franssen worked away from figuration and implicit narrative for several years but now seems to be orbiting back.

Nudes and an air of corrupted pastoral emerge from pictures such as "Shadowsmear" (2012) and especially "Ladyland" (2012), which reaches - overreaches in fact - past de Kooning to Picasso.

Ladyland, 2012 | Oil on Canvas | 77 x 83 Inches
Ladyland, 2012 | Oil on Canvas | 77 x 83 Inches

But Franssen still impresses when she allows gesture and color to sink figures completely, as in the splendid "Slippy" (2012). Its title salutes de Kooning by recalling his famous self-description as "a slipping glimpser," always surfing away from overcommitment to any pictorial subject on a tide of unrehearsed handwork.

Whatever trouble content may cause Franssen, her capacity to choose a palette and run freely with it remains impressive. All-out efforts such as hers get harder to find in contemporary painting as time goes on.