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A Chromatic Escape | Karen Rifas

by Joel Linkewer, Communications Intern, The Bass

Radiating in subtropical hues of turquoise, pink, and orange, Karen Rifas’ newest suite of works present a dynamic survey of her most current geometric practice. Rendered in both two- and three- dimensions, her chosen mix of media expand on her architectural vernacular, creating modernist landscapes that expand far beyond her canvases. Entitled Deceptive Constructions, Rifas’ first solo museum show in over 10 years references her most recent stylistic shift towards color; specifically emphasizing pieces created in the last two years.

Although based in Miami for over 60 years, developing and exploring the geometric composition, Rifas’ newest departure towards color creates the best allusion to her time spent in Miami. Through its bright palette, the exhibition celebrates many tropical hallmarks of our city, as well as represents the environment the works were created in. Inside, the once whitewashed gallery space is flushed with exciting shades of pink, purple, orange and green. While the works offer allusions to artists of similar practices, including Carmen Herrera, Al Held or Frank Stella, Rifas’ survey offers its own distinct perspective on the relationship with, and between, space.

Looking back at early twentieth century pioneers of geometric abstraction including Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg of the famed Dutch De Stijl Movement, we see how their lasting influence on art and architecture has been reinvestigated through later, contemporary luminaries and even persisting into the twenty-first century; as evidenced through Rifas’ own interpretation of the style.

Upon closely inspecting Rifas’ painted canvases, the implications of foreground and background are straddled between planes of varying degrees, allowing the viewer to contemplate and reevaluate their spatial reasoning. While differing in their degrees of perceived complexity, the overall juxtaposed color-blocking of the forms create soothing works that are simultaneously easy to digest. Delightfully, they are as visually rigorous as the viewer requests of them. Not only the canvases, but also Rifas’ sculptural works challenge our relationships existing within these preconstructed spaces, where one can see them as sculptures, pieces of seating – or both.

On view throughout the summer, Deceptive Constructions offers a fresh way to experience the vibrant palette of our tropical city, while also creating an unparalleled environment. Although much of the history of geometric abstraction lies in the twentieth century, the chromatic works radiate in jubilant bursts of color, proving geometric abstraction is as much alive today as it was 100 years ago.


Read more: KAREN RIFAS: Deceptive Constructions is on view through October 21, 2018. 

Images: Karen Rifas, Deceptive Constructions, installation view, May 24 – October 21, 2018. Photography by Zachary Balber, courtesy The Bass, Miami Beach.