December 9, 2012

Art Review: Ipcar show authentic, important and completely enjoyable


(Continued from page 1)

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“New Helmet Plumes 2” by Dahlov Ipcar.

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“Riverside – Brazil”

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"Dahlov Ipcar at the Maine Jewish Museum.” Paintings, prints and books curated by Frost Gully Gallery director Tom Crotty

WHERE: The Maine Jewish Museum, 267 Congress St., Portland

WHEN: Through Jan. 4

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday or by appointment

COST: Free

INFO:, 329-9854;, 749-1130

The painting that turned me around regarding Ipcar is "Outside In." At first glance, I thought the 2011 piece was weak. Something about it seemed tentative and nervous – very different from the other works' colorfully serene magic.

"Outside In" (pictured on D1) depicts an anxious cheetah peering through a doorway at passing zebras. It feels like a large apartment building with a Kafkaesque series of illogical doors and hallways. It's a dream image that could be read differently for 1,001 nights. It's absolutely brilliant.

Despite their stylization, there is something fresh about Ipcar's paintings: They reflect a quick and intuitive approach rather than being overworked and over-determined. But don't confuse improvisational immediacy with vapidity. Miles Davis, after all, improvised – but he was an intellectual heavyweight. Ipcar's sensibilities are deeply steeped in intelligence and experience. It's now second nature for her to divide up sections of her compositions by color – like Chagalls' opera ceiling or his famous "I and the Village" – or to mobilize the triangular Cubist-inspired triangles of Franz Marc's backgrounds.

Ipcar doesn't just borrow ideas from other artists; like all the greats, she incorporates them into her own thinking. Americans tend to confuse originality and authenticity – overvaluing the former when what matters most is the latter. Invention follows authenticity, and Ipcar is absolutely an American original.

"Dahlov Ipcar at the Maine Jewish Museum" is eminently approachable. A video about Ipcar plays in the gallery. Her books and (fabulous) pillows, carpets and prints are all accessible – and fantastic. Everyone, from the youngest to the most sophisticated art fan, should see this show; it's no less enjoyable than it is important.

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:


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Additional Photos

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“Blue Cream Cat”


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