You’ll leave Elaine Reichek’s second solo exhibition at Marinaro, “MATERIAL GIRL,” with a slapdash bachelor’s in art history. An artists’ artist, Reichek has thrown a little bit of everything in this prolific show, which includes 50 works made only in the last few years, and spans both floors of the gallery with painting, embroidery, text, and textile works referencing 19th-century teaching samplers, literary texts, fashion, Baroque art, conceptual art and more. In Darning Sampler: LeWitt's Color Grids (2018), she riffs on Sol Lewitt’s grids while entirely upending his conceptualist philosophy by rendering them as a darning sampler. She comments on Jackson Pollock in a series of critical texts stitched upon commercially printed fabrics with a Pollock-esque pattern, even going so far as to stretch one bolt of the fabric around the corner of the room.
Sometimes, Reichek spells it out for us: she stitches “Marsden Hartley painted ‘Insignia and Gloves,’ 1936, in memory of Karl von Freyburg (d. 1914), and Alty & Donny Mason (d. 1936)” on her embroidered rendition of the titular work, In Memoriam (Marsden Hartley) (2021). We even get a little theory, courtesy of Susan Howe’s “Bed Hangings II.” Wry and well-read, she even embroiders an excerpt from Barbara Pym’s Some Tame Gazelle (1950), in which a character mends a sock, alongside with a real woolen sock. Reichek’s obsession with fabrics extends to historical painting, from the glove Frans Hals painted on Dorothea Berck in 1644 to a dress by Wayne Thiebaud to the ripped jeans in a work by John Currin.
But Reichek’s one true love, if we may speak from the evidence of this exhibition alone, is clearly Henri Matisse. A grid of swatches of a Matissean female figure with various background colors appears here, as does a layered pink and green Monstera leaf in his late cut-out style, and even a reproduction of his tapestry notes for Michaela (1943) in a hand-embroidered 2021 work. Reichek may be most drawn to the seamlessness—no pun intended—between home and studio for Matisse. She draws not only from his artwork, but also swatches from his parlor furniture and even commercial products drawn from his work—like a true “material girl.” —Lisa Yin Zhang
Elaine Reichek, Felt Monstera, 2022. Felt, map tracks, 22.75 x 17.5 inches.