Catherine Green has some commonalities with Balthus and Morandi, though the formal qualities of her work have little to do with either painter. One thing she shares with them is the sense that no matter how you go about analyzing what you see before you, there remains some ineffable quality that won’t be pinned down that is actually responsible in large part for the subtle yet striking success of the work. The second thing she shares with them is a certain unwillingness to engage the vanguard while instead insisting upon an individual direction that, in the end, becomes more remarkably unique than anything ever wrought by the self-conscious pursuit of new forms. How does Morandi make an amazing career out of small, simple, still lifes? Why can Balthus get away with a style that doesn’t ever really go beyond the painting of the Italian quattrocento? And what allows Catherine Green, working essentially as a Constructivist ala Malevich or Mondrian to make such sublimely serene abstractions? The key in all cases is an intense commitment to intuition as the guiding force for an extremely refined aesthetic. This is the source of the ineffable quality, the resonant hum that comes from the strong works of these painters.
In her recent show at Zane Bennett, Green has chosen to eschew the diagonal, creating the abstract spaces of her Suprematist compositions purely from horizontal and vertical divisions. Her greatest departure from the formalism of her antecedents is an incredible, again intuitive, sense of color. The paintings here that employed a palette dominated by reds and greens are fantastic in their ability to make simple complementaries sing in ways that would probably leave Albers scratching his head in wonder. The tones float somewhere between high chromatics and mixed down neutrals without ever really being either, but always feel absolutely right in relation to one another. Green began her artistic career studying Japanese ceramics and her painting retains a calm, Zen-like perfection that seems paradoxically simplified and complex. Mondrian believed that his “asymmetrical harmonies” would bring spiritual peace to the person who spent time with them. Catherine Green’s project is equally enlightening.