Lyrical Vivacity in the Paintings of Alyssa Traub

Although twenty-one year old Alyssa Traub has a BFA degree in Fine Art Photography, she is also a sculptor and painter. To be exhibited at Agora Gallery 530 West 25th Street, from January 8 through 29, 2010, with a reception on January 14, from 6 to 8 PM, Traub’s paintings are refreshingly free of the trendy trickery practiced by many youthful artists today.

Indeed, Traub’s lyrical abstractions suggest a mature, fully formed aesthetic, combining the chromatic complexity of Color Field painting with the gestural vivacity of Abstract Expressionism.

While her overall love of vibrant color could have been inspired by growing up in the sunny clime of St. Petersburg, Florida, Traub possesses an innate gift for harmonizing a wide range of subtle secondary hues that goes far beyond mere exuberance.

This is especially apparent in her oil and acrylic on canvas “Gold Rush.” Here, a brilliant blue rectangle is energetically laid down over a burnished bronze-colored undercoat that forms an irregular border around the edges of the canvas and shines through the blue, imbuing it with a subtle radiance. The central blue area, also energetically activated by swirling strokes of thick impasto, plays host to a plethora of short cursive daubs of golden yellow and flecks of red that appear to chase each other around the composition like playful fireflies. While the calligraphic energy of the composition could call to mind the personal calligraphy of Mark Tobey, the complexity of color relationships calls to mind the Color Field innovations of Jules Olitski.

Along with their purely nonobjective attributes, however, Traub’s paintings are further enriched by an element of natural allusiveness that comes across most overtly in a painting such as her large acrylic and oil on canvas “Dreams of Green.” This is an especially lyrical picture in a palette dominated by lush blues and greens, augmented with streaks of yellow and bits of red. Without resorting to specific description, the artist evokes a strong sense of verdant vegetation around a body of water, the effect is enhanced by swift gestural streaks suggesting the shimmer of sunlight on tall grasses bending in a gentle breeze.

Equally lyrical in its own manner is Traub’s acrylic painting “Morning Illusion,” in which the dance of spare strokes of soft pastel hues against a brilliant blue field is sufficient to evoke a sense of early morning freshness. Then there is the buoyant composition “Portrait of a Fish,” in which bold circular strokes of green acrylic, apparently applied with a palette knife, wittily create the creature of the title through the most economical of means. The poetic playfulness of this painting, if not the more freewheeling manner of its execution, recalls the whimsy of Paul Klee.

Yet Traub can also evoke an entirely different dynamic through the animated layering of one color upon another. And she does so quite dynamically in “Anarchy and Deceit,” another large canvas in which more violently configured strokes of pinkish white and gray, set against a variegated reddish field, provide a more visceral visual jolt.

Alyssa Traub’s ability to convey a variety of subjects and mood through form, color, and gesture alone sets her apart as one of our more promising among the new generation of abstract painters.

––Maureen Flynn

Image Credits: Dreams of Green, Acrylic & Oil on Canvas, 48" x 60"

Read more reviews