Natasha Sweeten

at Edward Thorp Gallery


Art in America

October 2006


By Edward Leffingwell



Intricate designs and serpentine forms occupy the fields of Natasha Sweeten's 15 small, subtle, oil-on-panel paintings dated 2005, evidence of the artist's considerable attention to the strategic layering layering, scumbling, scraping and taping of paint in pursuit of a complex and engaging surface.


Not more than 30 inches on a side and not less than 17, Sweeten's paintings retain a remarkable spontaneity of effect, considering the complex labors of her process. The dominant, snakelike figure that winds through Mother Nature on the Run is all that remains of a layered surface built up of autumnal colors, an arabesque whose crisp edges have been defined by masking tape, subsequently removed. A field of somewhat dense, angular, receding grids of blue and green serves as ground to the snaking figure. The biomorphic Inner Workings of an Outside Source is similarly composed of layered and curvilinear forms; grids combine deep purple and dark earth tones of the same intensity, and a second grid is overpainted in pale red and powder blue.


Two paintings share angular patterns that resemble the skeletal structure of a leaf. The painted lobes that dominate the frontally oriented Battle of Ideas are rendered in a somber palette running from black to brown. The leaf spine is an orange underpainted yellow, mottled as though abstractly directly from the wood grain. It has been taped, creating an edge that emphasizes both the form's jaggedness and the shadow it appears to cast on a hard-edged plane of vibrant blue. The overall field of Unknown Factors in a Tight Race radiates out of a leaflike structure of pale magenta, with shards of deep blue striking diagonals off its spine and the painting's edge.


The lines that compose the building systems of Still Life with Tumbleweed and Plays Well with Others call attention to the similarities of the paintings. The former is composed of a doubled blue-outlined cellular structure resembling a honeycomb, which is superimposed on a field of biomorphic forms in bright, warm colors. The latter consists of a grid of lavender-blue nodules and pentagonal cells that organize a surface of scrubbed yellow and red. Admirers of oils on linen and panel of Thomas Nozkowski will have room for comparison and thought. This was Sweeten's first major exhibition in Manhattan.