DRISCOLL BABCOCK GALLERIES is pleased to present Oculus, the latest body of paintings on canvas and paper by Marylyn Dintenfass. This is the artist's ninth one-person show in New York City, and her fifth at Driscoll Babcock. What began for Dintenfass as a methodical, process-oriented exercise, exploring the expressive and technical possibilities of circles, grew into a meditative celebration of the architectural Oculus.
This current work began with a concentrated series of 15-inch square paintings and over time le
ad to ever larger works that have culminated in a series of 77-inch square paintings. Dintenfass found these paintings to be a great source of energy at the same time that they expanded her personal emblematic identification.
The circle motif has been one of the constants in the visual lexicon that Dintenfass has employed throughout her work. Evoking a wide range of mathematical, historical and philosophical references—from cellular microcosms to celestial macrocosms—Dintenfass has sustained a perceptive investigation of this iconic, essential shape. Whereas some of her oculi are made with strong gestural marks, revealing the presence of Dintenfass' hand, others make use of a highly controlled, hard-edge matrix derived from ring-like templates of her own design. The tension between these two modes, organic and mathematical, becomes a critical element of the series, playing against each other's similarities and differences.
Dintenfass' Oculus works are also influenced by her concerns for architectural space and scale. The oculus (Latin for "eye") originated in Antiquity as a circular opening, often at the top of a dome. The oculus allowed a focused beam of natural light to illuminate a building's interior; this illumination changed with the hour, weather conditions and season. Thus, even though the “opening" remained constant, its interaction with and control of light, and the fact that one can see both into and out of an oculus, is full of provocative dichotomies, meanings and visual possibilities.
This is one source of Dintenfass' fascination with the conceptual possibilities of oculi; of the "palpable, full body impact" of experiencing the oculus’ circular shaft of light animating monumental temples, churches and other ancient buildings she has encountered in Italy and Turkey, as well as more recent encounters including James Turrell’s Roden Crater.
Here, the Oculus works—enigmatic, hypnotic and meditative—bring together and fully embody Dintenfass' interest in the phenomenological impact and meaning of the physical and conceptual Oculus.