Nahas Essay

Dominique Nahas Art Critique 

Ecstatic Visionary: The Work of Andrea Dasha Reich

by Dominique Nahas ©2010


Exhilaration permeates Andrea Dasha Reich's Artistic vision. That vision, layered and sparkling is drawn from an animistic, transcendental apprehension of nature. The visually loaded and meticulously crafted surfaces the artist works to create post-modern tapestries; they are luminous and complexly interwoven. In looking closely at her work one marvels at how scrupulously worked each of the overlays of resin are that Reich uses to make evident her multitiered pictorialized planes. One recognizes that to attain the quality of seamless amalgamation that she does (in which her worlds seem as if they had naturally arisen, effortlessly, of their own accord) Reich's imagistic versatility must be matched by peerless technical virtuosity. The volition that propels the work seems to be handled with equal parts instinct and calculatedness. The work's joyful vitality, rigor and freshness reminds us of Henri Matisse's frame of mind when he created his alternate universes. He, as Reich, takes enormous pains to make his paintings look as if they required little effort: "I have always tried" he remarked, "to hide my own efforts and wanted my work to have the lightness and joyousness of a springtime which never lets anyone suspect the labors it has cost."

Indeed the most evident aspect of Andrea Dasha Reich's work is its seemingly unrehearsed look, its improvisational, ebullient feel. This spontaneous aspect is marched by the same freshness that punctuates Matisse's work: one that is filled with presentness, with immediacy and with aliveness all the while preserving that balance of universality and particularity and that of ephemerality and timelessness. Such tensions are aided and abetted by Riech's unabashed appetite for color, and pattern and ornament. She revels in combining patterns and marks not usually seen together. She does this with remarkable boldness so as to render parallel worlds brighter and sweeter and more harmonious that the tension-filled world of our everyday lives. An intensified freshness matched with muscular mark-making and rigorous vitality are the identifying traits of all of Andrea Dasha Reich's works no matter how formally dissimilar they might at first appear to the viewer. In this respect her vision is one that celebrates  multicanus universum - a harmonious universe - as the artist cross-breeds Romanticism's celebration of nature, the expressionistic verve of all-over and ab ex painting (Interaction Energy) while incorporating echoes of Asia's Ukiyo-e "floating world" block prints marked at times with Pop-Art colors (Houses 54, Linac) or with more nuanced tonalities as well (Gray Angel Hair).

Reich's artworks, typically compromised of mixed media with multi-layered resin coating on sintra, come across as systems that appear highly contingent: movable, variable and changeable. A felling of flux keeps the eye circulating in and around each part of each artwork as the eye gets caught in the swirls end eddies of the energetic traces left by the use of layered mixed media snippets of fabric and cut paper and plastic that are embedded with the resin. The works are truly hallucinatory as the 3-D effect puts us at a remove. Each individual work makes us dwell, optically, within it as a set of ghostlike floating apparitions in which the various components that make up each of the hovering layers (visual events such as colors, marks, volumes, patterns, reflections, shadows, glitterings) emerge and merge retinally speaking. The result is a testament  to the vitality of paradox: each of the artist's works is tactile and concretely materialistic while appearing to be at a remove and ghostlike. Reich's post-modern tapestries are indeed alive in an un-dead type of way. They are strange and uncanny at their best, rigorously eschewing all sham sentimentality. In look and feel they engender a diversity of association: intimation of effluvial diagrams (Abstract), corral formations (Red Dots) cosmological charts (Ayteen), weather maps (Verde/ Gray Tess, Tropical Tess) and board games (Odyssey/Phosphoro Complex). Importantly the sense of emergence and the intimation of becoming are at the core if this work. The end result for the viewer is an art experience that leads to a sense of wonder and delight.

The impact of Andrea Dasha Reich's work is immediate and stunning: the eye circulates discursively at rapid  speed along what appears at first to be smooth glass-like surface of the work. In time the eye notices that at certain angles of the main surface that the artist has worked with the lower epidermal layers and under-surfaces with the remarkable sensitivity. Raised textures in the form of painterly accretions offer small bumps of textural fields that pick up the light at different speed than smoothly polished areas. The colors, also, are orchestrated to keep the eye in a constant state of excitation as it scans, hovers, darts, swerves and glides into all of the corners and folds and crevasses of space offered to the eye through the dimensions of height, length, breadth and thickness. The eye directs itself though the often-intricate yet playful compositional motifs that the artist has set up and it does so effortlessly and naturally. At times, Reich's main operational motif is a geometric extension of say, a grid, across the surface that has counter-effects applied to it such as loops or circles as in Fresco Circles that fit in nicely in each quadrant of space. Yet Reich amps up the volume by inserting large loops flowing across the surface of colors yellow orang purple and blue, her version of the Pollockian skein inducing a reverie about infinities within infinities. At other times the artist will introduce a composition that recalls a movement-schema akin to a dynamic pressure map so variable and so fluctuating are the energies that course through such works. I have used the term "energetic systems" to adequately indicate how these artworks have affinities, visually, with for fields. Reich's multi-layered artworks feel and have the look of peering underwater as we are immersed in the worlds inhabited by ecosystems and living organisms that emanate a whirling sense of vitality that in turn suggests vortexes and volatility. The stereopsis effect that results from the way our binocular vision yields a sensation of depth with each eye giving a minutely different of the same perceptible mark; object or condition allow us to enter into a fantasy-world of alternative possibilities.  

All of these preceding descriptive endeavors are at the service of the following remarks. It is simply insufficient to refer to Andrea Dasha Reich's unorthodox works using the language applied to traditional painting such as an oil-on-canvas artwork. Reich's vision is so multi-layered and multi-valent. The beholder's eye doesn't look at a work of Reich's as much as it travels through and territorializes her fines-tuned, orchestrated efforts. One doesn't envisage optical phenomenon such as color, texture, and light as much as we encounter these aspects and facets of our experience as we sojourn in and though Reich's works. Finally is is nearly impossible to convey the luminous immateriality that makes itself evident in the artist's work without referring to thresholds and liminal space, that in-betweeness of things, that sensation that comes from a space of otherness, a mental space sequestered from normative conditions of sight and insight. All of this as a means of introducing an incontrovertible fact: Reich's vision epitomizes an art as it is defined by the German philosopher Anton Shelling as the resolution of an infinite contradiction in a finite object. Indeed "taking in" the artist's works is a sumptuous and sensorially luxurious experience, so leavened with visual, compositional, and textural events are these works. The vision of Andrea Dasha Reich is embodied within multi layered resin works that are hallucinatory amalgamations of an unusually vivid sort. Fresh and singularly inviting while remaining perpetually out of reach, Reich's dreamscape engenders ecstatic universes brimming with potentiality.