“Elaine’s paintings—her exquisite craftsmanship and her own engagement with the themes of time and transformation—have awed me for years. Elaine’s work drives home the enduring timeliness of Bosch’s premonitions of ecological and political catastrophe.”
-Margaret D. Carroll, Hieronymus Bosch: Time and Transformation in the Garden of Earthly Delights, Yale University Press, 2022
“Climate change is an ideal theme for Spatz-Rabinowitz’s aesthetic of disintegration. Parts of the world are caving in. Her works don’t merely picture that. They embody it.”
Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe, May 18, 2017
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"The works…teeter between representation and abstraction...In "Arctic Dream (sketch)," rust makes straight cuts into the bluish surface, which we can read as ice or snow. Again, there's a story here - human detritus mars a ground many tend to think of as pristine. Then there's the rugged abstraction: slashes of rusty brown, crumbling blue gray, a faint woven texture below. The works here succeed because they're not one or the other, but both."
Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe, January 14, 2014
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Bridget Lynch, Where We Live catalog, Trustman Gallery, Simmons College, 2012
“Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz visualizes the ubiquitous effects of war in her mixed media piece “Iraqi Ditch.” This deceivingly realistic painting is composed on cast Hydrocal and features a trompe l’oeil surface that rivals the best baroque muralists. In an Anselm Kiefer like composition, Spatz-Rabinowitz juxtaposes Afghani slippers with dolls from Auschwitz amid the dusted-over surface of an abandoned public space. Absent a specific locale, the painting’s ambiguity helps maintain its universality: it’s a sight composed from myriad pages of historical tragedy.”
-“Life After Wartime.” Chris McGinnis, Pittsburgh City Paper, 1/18/12
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About the painting, Iraqi Ditch, “It is the only painting in the show, yet one of the most jarring pieces on display.”
-Kurt Shaw, "Visions of 10 years of war," KurPittsburgh Tribune-Review, 1/15/12
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“Hers is a collective portrait of what war wreaks. Unified and meticulously painted on monolithic slabs of plaster.…(her) materials do what the smooth and uniform surfaces of photography cannot. They make the damage tactile; they give it weight.”
-Susanne Slavick, Out of Rubble catalog, 2011, for the eponymous exhibition which traveled nationally from 2011-2015 to venues in PA, OH, MD, CA and CO
“Spatz-Rabinowitz paints worlds shattered by violence. Beauty and horror intertwine in these works.... The stories behind the billowing smoke, torn metal, and scattered household items matter less than the overall impact of these gorgeously rendered landscapes.”
-Joanne Silver, ARTnews, national reviews, Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, Summer 2008
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"Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz at OK Harris," Edward Leffingwell, Art in America, October 2006
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“…the content of [Spatz-Rabinowitz’s] work…emerges naturally in her process…it accrues in the formal intelligence of her product. With respect to the former, I mean not only the artistic decisions she makes in the course of the creative process—about color, say, or image selection, or composition—I mean as well the demanding physical process itself, particularly the manipulation of the Hydrocal during the time it takes to transform itself from liquid to solid state, the testy period when the material takes on an unpredictable life of its own, when the ruts and pits and cracks begin to appear; when the control we normally associate with the trompe l'oeil painter’s product is nowhere in sight. Like the drips and splatters in Abstract Expressionist painting, those ruts and pits and cracks manifest the vital interaction between the maker and her material, including all of the risks and rewards that attend it. In doing so, so, too, do they manifest its content.
When referring to the formal intelligence of the product, I’m thinking of its visual appeal, its look, the compelling and convincing beauty of it, for beautiful it surely is….Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz employs visual appeal—beauty, if you will—as an additional manifestation of content. In wedding subject matter, form, and content so seamlessly, her achievement becomes exceptional and moving…”
Carl Belz, Director Emeritus, Rose Art Museum, catalog for the artists’ exhibition at the Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, 2004
“Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz's paintings have grown more harrowing -- they smolder, they're scarred with violence -- yet they also grow more formally lush and magnificent. It's as if, in her new show at Howard Yezerski Gallery, she grabs us by the throat with wisps of a tragic narrative and then releases us into the eternal with the sheer abstract beauty of her paintings."
-"Painter's work has become more violent and more beautiful," Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe, May 21, 2004
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“Cover: Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz, detail of Incursions, 2001, oil on pigmented, plasticized Hydrocal, steel, 72” x 74” x 3”….In her paintings of picture-perfect landscapes and poolsides on rough, hand-cast plaster surfaces, the paint falls away or stops, exposing the raw plaster substructure. The movement from painted illusion to materiality unmasks what William James called ‘that pit of insecurity beneath the surface of life.’”
-Cover artist for the PMLA Publication of the Modern Language Association of America, March 2004
“1982 one of her past students, Peter Sellars, convinced her to create set designs for his reinterpretation of Orlando for the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge. She agreed. The following year, she made an ambitious installation of her own work titled Sudden Difficulties for The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), and Sellars in turn worked on the piece with her. The exhibition at the ICA set the stage for her signature work; it included painted plaster that was set into steel reinforcing bars (rebar) and dealt thematically with “an environment breaking down.
Since her exhibition at the ICA, Spatz-Rabinowitz has simultaneously charted new territory in the postmodern referendum on painting’s mortality and shared her fears regarding the violence being perpetrated against the world’s environment. Her paintings assert their own illusionism while basking in the light of their own realism. She delights in the tension created in the heavy plasticity of their supports and the thinness of their images. The supports are unevenly shaped plaster casts, the surfaces of which are sanded quite smooth to allow for an image of crystalline clarity. The ragged edges of the plaster—and sometimes the breaks within the picture plane itself—reveal the steel reinforcing bars slowing rusting within. She writes:
The intensely physical material of plaster grounds my painted illusionism in a non-transcendental, non-story-telling object; it is literally broken, the edge becomes a precipice, a place of disappointment. In other places the image crumbles by way of surface erosion. In either case a collision occurs between the depth of the illusion and the materiality of the plaster…
This inherent formal opposition works in concert with the thematic range Spatz-Rabinowitz covers. Her works vacillate between desire and dismay. In a landscape of lush greenery we find the veiled threat of human encroachment lurking in the details (an industrial site, for example). In his classic study The Machine in the Garden, Leo Marx exposed the recurring attempts of American authors and painters to pastoralize technology by making it appear a natural part of the scenery.” Spatz-Rabinowitz decries these efforts to naturalize industry with her work by bringing to light the lie of technology’s benign impact on nature. The struggles between life and death, creation and destruction, fill her paintings. Her apparently decaying surfaces—the rusted rebar and plaster—reinforce the theme. Spatz-Rabinowitz confronts her viewers with multiple dimensions of realism and illusionism. Throughout her many-layered discourse, her paintings sound a distinct cautionary warning about the extent and malignancy of the human impact on nature.”
-John R. Stomberg, the Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961 Director of the Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, Painting in Boston 1950-2000: Realism and the Role of the Image in Boston Area Art, 2002
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