Gallery RIVAA: Arline Jacoby

review by David Stone

Anyone who spent this past six months in New York can appreciate the serendipity of the moment when Arline Jacoby, one of Roosevelt Island’s pioneering artists, got a call from a friend inviting her to Laguna Woods in Southern California for the winter.

Even better, studio space was available nearby where she could work every day.

The results, reflecting one high point in a career artist’s life, can be seen at Gallery RIVAA, 527 Main Street, beginning with an opening reception today, Saturday, April 25, 6:00-9:00 p.m. It’s coordinated with the day’s Cherry Blossom Festival, and preceded by a concert of traditional Japanese music from 4:25 to 5:00 p.m. in the gallery.

After spending Thanksgiving with her daughters, Annice, also an artist, and Isa, a master chef, in San Francisco, Jacoby traveled south to Orange County, not returning to the East Coast until she had no choice. On March 29, she celebrated her sister’s 100th birthday in their hometown of Philadelphia.

From Thanksgiving until spring, Jacoby devoted herself to creating “multimedia pieces that explore chromatic harmony and clashes.

“For me,” she continues in a formal statement for the show, “the spinning of the color wheel reveals unlimited possibilities.”

In the relaxed atmosphere of her Rivercross apartment, Jacoby turned more passionate. “I got very excited about color – what color can do. I wasn’t as interested in pictures. I want visitors to see the color first.

“Red is my favorite color,” she adds unnecessarily.

Red fires several of the paintings still in her apartment, waiting to join others already taken downstairs to the gallery. What pieces will make it into the show and where each will hang is still uncertain.

“I may have too much,” Jacoby reflects on the output of a fertile creative season away from the cold in New York.

The economic struggles of the Roosevelt Island Visual Art Association make this exhibition more poignant. Over 15 years ago, Jacoby led the founding of this artists’ community on Roosevelt Island. Her vision was an “Island of Art,” connecting galleries and museums between Manhattan and Queens. Now, she feels that, because of RIVAA’s financial challenges, this show of mainly new works may be her last at the gallery that she and her pioneering partners raised from the wreckage of an abandoned pharmacy.

She cites, as her theme, “Colors do not sing in isolation. They resonate in a chorus and court illusions, shifting in relation with neighboring hues.”

But as an educator and administrator as well as an artist, Jacoby has broader aims – to inspire: “I hate to be so pedantic, but I want people to realize that they all have art in them. The idea that you can’t draw a straight line has nothing to do with it. Just do it for yourself.”

The interplay is not just between colors, but as much between artist and viewer.

Here is some of what you will see at Color Outside the Line:

• "The Pink Nun" evolved after the studio offered a model in familiar black-and-white garb. Jacoby recalled nuns dressed in pink from her childhood, memorable because of their code of silence. The memory merged with others of Dominican sisters who practiced healing, and the pink of breast cancer awareness. The result is a sympathetic, mystical image that draws you toward the canvas.

• "A Confederate Soldier" stares straight ahead in reflective sorrow. “The impression I got was, 'Why are we fighting? I don’t want to fight this war.'”

• "Serenity," another painting inspired by a studio model, presents an ethereal, lighter-than-air figure with a reassuring smile in a field of early-morning blue.

• Drip paintings "Visitor Red" and "Living with Red" extend Jacoby’s versatility into nonfigurative art dependent on color and spontaneous composition. "Visitor Red" takes its intuitive cue from Austrian mystic and “spiritual scientist” Rudolph Steiner.

• "Blue Water Beach Rock Meeting the Light of Day" is a study in light and color as their interactions change over time.

• In an op art meditation, "Contemplation on Circles," Jacoby’s colors modulate from her favored red as different lights penetrate a field saturated with black.

• Sticking with optical statements about contrast, "Secondary Color with Structure" is a lesson plan in balance among minor players on the color wheel.

For this show, Jacoby’s family insisted that she include one from the archive, a traditional portrait in oil, "Enjoying My Family," from 1959, also about balance. Having been born into a family with “an artistic strain in us,” she made history balance by passing that strain into succeeding generations.

Gallery hours are Wednesday and Friday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Tags: RIVAA entertainment David Stone

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