Information Gallery by Amy Schichtel / by Elie Andersen


Jilting, squeezing, jitterbugging with the Parthenon, eradicating columnar calm and sending vertiginous blasts of gaiety and flux: that was Rifka's 80s.

Recently, formulaic grids overtook and subdued the disarray. The rational and the irrational coalesced into an essential vocabulary of materials and signs: linen, handmade paper, a Classical head, columns, the all purpose shape "a" and turtles. Framed by the grid, each contains newly found significance. With a new sense of clarity and her everlasting friendship with raw materials, Rifka is thoroughly immersed in exploring her rapport with this finite, but multi-leveled set of images and by extension, her rapport with the outer world.

Rifka is impelled to cut, feel and paste her chosen shapes. Palming them, she communicates with every morsel, and even though she places them easily, without preoccupation, each shape belongs where it is, as though it drove Rifka to its placement - indeed, as though she were the mediator and part of the medium herself.

Is she a psychic? No. In fact, Rifka hates to mysticize relationships. But, she is hyper-sensitive to the phenomenon of communication. Compassionately, she lives out a dialectic with our strange and estranged natural environment, and from this, her personal and artistic moments weave gently through one another. Turtles, for example, are among her favorite pets and have been added recently to her lexicon. She explains that to coexist with these foreign creatures, it was necessary to learn everything about them. Rifka tells stories and describes at length the necessary care for her pets. In the same antiheroic breath, she relays her artistic process. Understanding her rapport with nature and materials helps one grasp the content of her work.

In the studio, Rifka leaves scraps where they fall to literally surround herself with her medium in all its new, old and reformed states. After years of working, contemplating and touching them, she intuitively absorbs for use what various juxtapositions relay. For example, the chatty shape "a" was found in the negative space left in a sheet of paper from which many circles were cut closely together. Acquisitions like this, though, are rarely just gifts. A serendipitous discovery does lead to deliberate acts to save that moment. However, it is her sensitive, use-based inclination to save that allows for these accidental finds and for meanings to take shape.

The relationship Rifka has developed with her medium allows the whole a voluminous voice. Taken in its entirety, her wall installation, for example, creates an eidetic image. Still, it is easy to zone in on the digital flutter of the parts. Although more uniform than earlier compositions, the unevenly met squares of Bio File toss like lively rooms of conversationalists. The metamorphic "a"s, reading as "e" and "g"s, eagerly converse while the "a" on its back, as a waving little man, cries "halt" and "hello". The turtles pose in unison and the Classical heads dumbly stare, aloof. Regardless of their mannerisms, however, each remains alone in its own square universe.

The form of these vignettes is sculpted as much as drawn as it was in Rifka's stacked canvases of the early 1980s. The bark paper of her recent collage is thickly layered. The edges curl up and spread from one another like well worn pages.

Rifka permits the medium to speak as much as possible without interference. Nevertheless, she knows when to interrupt. Double Negative is white on white and fragmented, in some cases clearly the salvaged refuse from another cut. The parts look quasi pressed together in a hurried, careless manner. Yet, Rifka has allowed three rounds to glaze the surface, anchoring as if magnetic moons.

Rikfa's work has evolved over the years. Yet, she never stops culling through her past. In Sculpture Fragments with Column V. heads are cracked by "a"s and columns cut into their brows as though remnants of the upheaval from Rifka's earlier "History of Sculpture" series. But, the forms no longer surge. Thought bubbles of columns fill serious, empty heads and Delaunay-like prismatics make interceptions with line and form.

As Rifka's language is open, an appealing ambiguity persists. The mesh of heroic, Classical images with the folksier turtles and "a"s imparts a sense of down-home universality. Despite the interactivity, the selected images seem at once self-assured and introverted. The Classical head looks inwardly with its anticipated calm and self containment. The confident line striding the turtle's circumference suggests a firmly crusted, but protective shell. It is only Rifka's invented "a" that overtly expresses energy and curiosity. The signs become imprints of duration: duration of the mind, of the earth and of the evolving creative idea.

After years of rumbling through ancient history, Rifka is on the move toward an harmonious balance of being.