Art New England

April/May 2002

The Hudson River Museum/Yonkers

Ellen Kozak Paintings: Reflections on a River

Katherine Gass

Kozak’s solo exhibition featured twenty-six recent paintings all created on-site at the Hudson River’s edge. Her focus is reflected light on water, each work balancing radiant color with gently dilating form. Like the rippled water she studies, the images often flow right off the edge of the canvas and can barely contain their modest scale.

Pushing the traditions of American river painting and nature-based abstraction, she’s at her visceral best when she goads the medium’s creamy thickness and intensifies the swirling shapes, as in Hudson River Primer #45. Other works like Thinking of Mt. Saint Michel retain a beautiful, quietly expressionist edge somehow reminiscent of the churning forms of Edvard Munch.

Since her residency at Yaddo, Kozak has been painting outside and giving poetry a location in her work. Whether as a brief reference (a title borrowed from Dickinson) or a vigorous translation (her Notations on a Landscape series, an ambitious ode to Rilke), the picture and the poem are fused. After a long look, her compositions start to mirror the way a poem is built on the page—emitting a slow, expanding rhythm that surpasses the instruments used to create it.

—Katherine Gass

Thinking of Mt. Saint Michel, 1999
oil on panel
12″ x 18″