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Mother and Child   1978, Oil on linen, 44″ x 50″

Margaret Taylor’s show at 47 Bond Street Gallery serves as a showcase for an artist working ambitiously and with admirable success in a broad disciplinary spectrum which includes works in pencil, oil, charcoal and etching. Of these media one might logically expect the oils and charcoals to be the softest. The charcoals here—there are only a few—are indeed, soft, perhaps in fact too soft to suggest either figurative elements or the intrinsic structure necessary to lift abstract building and composition beyond the point of dimorphous blur. The oils, on the other hand, are perhaps the least soft and organically shaped and molded of all the works here. There are, to be fair, a mere handful of works in this medium to be seen and judged yet, with a single exception, they share similar qualities. “Mother and Child” is characteristic. This large piece is iconographically tender. a woman bends solicitously to caress a child, helping it walk. The tableau itself has a built-in, culturally dictated poignancy. Yet it is actually executed in a strangely hard, untextured, unlyrical style. It is undeniably expressive, but in an unsettlingly contradictory way as the image and its execution seem to be locked in conflict. The figures are given a dulsitory bit of shading which is barely sufficient to suggest anatomical modelling; the faces are as immovable and stiffly inexpressive as masks. One has the impression that Taylor is inviting us to accept her heart as being in the proverbial right place when It is in fact hovering on a rather ironic outside looking in. Another oil, “Woman” implies a view less removed and more immediately comfortable. The sleeping nude, seen from several, logically impossible angles, consists of a series of subtly built-up, relaxed horizontal curves. The lines, the planar divisions are still harsh and clear yet the sense of the judgmental, the editorial is not in evidence. The meticulously planned organization, which projects a smooth, easy appreciation, is balanced by a corresponding eye toward pure sensuosity of color and form. Upsetting expectations, Taylor’s etching—which one would expect to be the most draughtsman, linear of her works—are in fact wonderfully soft (the artist’s public statements clearly indicate that “softness” is the quality she most treasures), the most subtly modulated pieces “Aurora, Profile” and “The Arch of Selene” are cases in point: both are etchings from the “Landscape” series, both remove, through microscopic abstraction, the specific female form into an undulating landscape, and both etchings have the quality of being richly worked, fleshed out, almost brushed, textured and molded. These beautiful etchings appear, at least in this show, to be Taylor’s most successfully accomplished work, smoothly marrying an intellectual posit with sheer visual/technical finesse. Yet the oils, with their uncertainty, technical and conceptual, linger in the mind, both for what they rather disturbingly are and for what Taylor will eventually allow them, through proliferation, one sense, to become.

Holland Cotter
New York Arts Journal
Jan-Feb 1979, page 31

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