The Journal News

November 9, 2001

Monet-like reflections of the Hudson River

by Georgette Gouveia

It’s rare to encounter an artist whose work thrills you. At the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, Ellen Kozak’s abstract paintings of the Hudson, on view through Jan. 10, shimmer, recalling the best of late Money and the Abstract expressionists. She’s the second artist exhibiting within the same county to offer a “wow” experience. At Purchase College’s Neuberger Museum of Art, Howard Ben Tré’s sea-colored glass sculptures dazzle.

As with much abstract art, it’s hard to articulate what makes “Ellen Kozak Paintings: Reflections on a River” succeed. The exhibit contains oils from her “Hudson River Primer Series” (1996- 2001), painted directly from nature, as well as watercolors from her 1996 book “Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes: Notations on a Landscape.” Which was inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem.

Like the feelings inspired by great poetry, there is something ineffable about Kozak’s work. And like great poetry, her creations conjure incongruous images that somehow seem right. The paintings in the “Hudson River Primer Series” suggest violets dancing on sunlit water, blue-and-red confetti strewn upon mauve waves at sunset; an almond-shaped, gray island in a pink mist, Kozak, who grew up on Long Island and lives in Manhattan, has a felicitous gift for color and composition that evokes the best of Claude Monet’s late water-lily paintings, along with the Abstract Expressionists — whose striking shapes and colors made New York the capital of the art world in the postwar era.

The works in the “Hudson River Primer Series” are distinguished from the “Orpheus” watercolors by their lighter, pastel palette. The “Orpheus” works have a jewel-like palette of purples, blues and greens in keeping with Rilke and Greek mythology’s dark tale of love and loss. As lovely as the “Orpheus” paintings are, there is something freer and more satisfying in the airy compositions of the “Hudson River Primer Series.”

The Kozak exhibit is the perfect complement to the museum’s other shows which are rich in 19th and early 20th century American landscapes.”

Early Light, 2000

oil on panel

17″ x 20″