“I’m interested in the idea of coexistence.”
The American born geometric abstract painter Shirley Jaffe interprets the urban cacophony with images and colors that evoke memories of the familiar within her incongruous renderings.
Jaffe grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York before moving to Washington, DC after her marriage and then on to Paris, France where she has remained for best part of the last six decades.
As she told Bomb Magazine’s Shirley Kaneda “I went at the end of 1949. We were living in Washington, D.C., and my husband was on the G.I. Bill, so he could go to any school he wanted. He wanted to go to the Sorbonne, so we ended up in Paris.”
It was a city that resonated with Jaffe and whilst having attended Parsons School of Design, Brooklyn College, and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, it was in Paris that she completed her art education.
As she has said “[It was] Exciting, wonderful. I took the opportunity to absorb as much art as I could, something I don’t think I had adequately done in New York. I went to every contemporary gallery and looked at everybody’s work and gave myself a visual education.”
It was in the 1960’s when Jaffe moved away from the gestural expressionist style to the geometric.
As she has explained “When I went to Berlin, in the late ‘60s. I felt that my paintings were being read as landscapes. And that wasn’t my intention. I don’t think I was terribly clear about what my intention was, but I knew it wasn’t landscape. At any rate, I was reworking gestural painting and it seemed wrong.”
A point Jaffe underscored with The Brooklyn Rail stating “I wanted to bring out what I thought was a particular interest of mine, and which I don’t think was visible then. Now, it might be.”
And if the New York Time’s art critic, Roberta Smith, is to be believed Jaffe is correct.
As Smith wrote in 2010 “Pure abstraction, bright as it is, is rejected in favor of urban inspiration. Ms. Jaffe’s best paintings are, like these, at once slyly humorous, deeply principled and robustly contaminated. Beauty is never simple or empty. It is won. It takes thought. Perhaps most beautiful of all, it is thought.”
Jaffe current exhibition of Works on Paper is on show at New York’s Tibor de Nagy Gallery until the 30th of April.