Deborah Zlotsky Sixty Dollar Spray Painting Series

June 24, 2020

Deborah Zlotsky on her Sixty Dollar Painting series:

"As an artist with a commitment to abstraction, the narrative elements of my work are not overt. The stories I tell emerge from a painting’s history of accumulated actions, spatial continuities and disruptions, and evidence of accidents, change, and repair. I am especially interested in the way the past permeates the present.

I’ve experimented with spray paint and dollar bills as another way to map a relationship between abstraction and a particular object. In these new works, I’m interested in defusing, transforming, and poking fun at the historical link between Jews, money, and power. Placing one-dollar bills on the surface of the paper to spray over and around, I explore color, pattern, and space. Smearing, layering, and spraying paint builds beautiful shifts in color and shapes to create abstract paintings that are at odds with the absurdity of the association with finances. The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, the Tree of Life synagogue shootings Pittsburgh in 2018, and the Chabad of Poway shootings in 2019, among many other anti-Semitic incidents in recent years, has made me think about what it means to be not just an artist but a Jewish artist. These hate crimes can be seen as a vestige of suspicions toward Jews who were prohibited from owning property but permitted to loan money in past centuries. While the literalness of using the bills activates a relationship between the past and the present, it also acknowledges profiting from my work. Selling the work for much more than $60 creates credible evidence of my association with money-making, even if my methodology is eccentric or comical.

The saturated and often fluorescent colors of the 1960s and 70s inspire me. In my paintings, I’m interested in using color to intensify differences, discover synchronicity, and manipulate pictorial space. Because my process is responsive, I often repaint portions of paintings dozens of times to create the relationship that works for the painting. Repainting one area inevitably leads to repainting the next area, and the next. Only after a multi-month process do I make sense of the color relationships and stop the cycle of color adjustments. Spray paint allows me to be highly improvisational and to be accepting of the alchemical smears and accidents that occur when I work wet into wet."

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