Bay Area Art Quake: Elena Zolotnitsky at Paul Mahder Gallery

I originally went to the Paul Mahder Gallery on Sacramento Street to check out several photographs recommended by a friend. When I entered the gallery, I was struck by the strong stare of a young girl in a small painting by Elena Zolotnitsky. Titled ‘La Menina,’ the painting appears to be many years old, due to Zolotnitsky’s use of gold leaf.

Mahder is showing Zolotnitsky’s portraits as well as still life paintings of flowers. Some of the portraits feature a somber boy or girl, the one in every school that may be the same age as the other kids, but is visibly older inside and out. Recall the stern child that never giggles, as seen in the serious dark eyes of Renaissance Boy below.

I would have liked to see Zolotnitsky’s paintings of flowers first, rather than the portraits, just to know what my original reaction would have been. After seeing her portraits, even the sunflowers seem to be telling the story of their hardscrabble life.

The faces in Zolotnitsky’s portraits may have searing eyes, as in Dorian Gray Series, above left, or Untitled, above right. Others have gray eye sockets and rubbed out eyes, like Grounded, below left. Still others appear to have no eyes at all, as in Raw, below right.

Zolotnitsky was one of the recipients of Visual Aid's first annual Jerome Caja Terrible Beauty Award in 2008. Caja, of the “Who needs canvas?” school, enlisted dishes and plates, plastic bottles, and flattened Styrofoam cups among other things as the backdrop for some of his paintings.

A reception showing new paintings by Elena Zolotnitsky will be held Thursday, January 15, 2009 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM at
Paul Mahder Gallery
3375 Sacramento Street @ Walnut
San Francisco, CA 94118

by Phil Gravitt

1) "La Menina" oil & gold leaf on panel 10x10"
2) "Renaissance Boy" oil & gold leaf on panel 12x12"
3) "Dorian Gray Series" oil & gold leaf on canvas 6x6"
4) "Untitled" oil on panel 12x12"
5) "Grounded" oil & gold leaf on canvas 20x20"
6) "Raw" oil on paper 10x10"