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Zetlin Exhibition on Display at Gordon Galleries

Works by the late Fay Zetlin, a former Old Dominion University student and faculty member, are on exhibition until Aug. 3 at ODU's Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries. "Origins: Selected Paintings by Fay Zetlin," a mini retrospective of her work from 1959 to 1979, is testimony to the importance of her career, particularly since Abstract Expressionism is currently under reexamination.

Beginning in the 1940s and becoming popular in the '50s as a painting movement that elevated chance and gesture, Abstract Expressionism was paradoxically a highly planned exercise by the artist. Its goal was pure painting, free of representational references but full of feeling and emotion.

Zetlin explored an idea that continued to be a focus throughout her career - creativity manifest visually. She sought to make her work a self-reflexive questioning of the nature of the creative act in the process of painting, and explored how this act of creativity could be communicated within the work as a form of visual language.

With a solid regional reputation, Zetlin was associated for many years with the ODU art department as student, teacher and visiting artist. She worked with a rigor that deepened the breakthroughs achieved by others. Her paintings are characterized by a bent for nonrepresentation and gesturing, forceful brushstrokes.

Artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Lewis, Larry Poons and Barnet Newman come to mind when viewing Zetlin's work. She, however, was not so much imitating these artists as she was reinterpreting and synthesizing their ideas.

According to the show's organizer, Fred Bayersdorfer, director of the Gordon Art Galleries, Zetlin "may not be the innovator but is the artist working in the field that, although broken by others, remains fertile ground for new and important exploration. The work becomes not a rehash of the work of others she may have internalized, but rather a synthesis of the ideas being considered, conveying new and important insights and further developing and broadening the field."

"As the show came together, we were struck by the beauty of the work and the coherence and dedication of Zetlin's vision," said Ramona Austin, the galleries' curator. "You gain a true appreciation for what Zetlin achieved. She shows how a movement associated with New York in the '40s and '50s was responded to nationally on a regional basis. It's an eye-opener."

The Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries, located at 4509 Monarch Way in the University Village at Old Dominion University, are open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Parking is available in the 45th Street garage. For more information call 683-6271.

This article was posted on: July 3, 2008

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