The SCOPE NYC Art Fair ended this past weekend and despite grabbing every flyer and press booklet (not to mention a thorough scouring of its entire website) I’ve still no clue why it is spelled all-caps. One assumes it is some sort of acronym, but what? (Serious Connoisseurs Of Personal Effort?)

We critics always manage to find a standout at these fairs and it’s doubly nice when the artist is also a relative unknown. Enter Anabel Leiner. She is represented by the Lilac Gallery, an LES contemporary art dealer who devoted half its booth space at SCOPE to the German-born artist. The work by Leiner that first caught my attention (and drew me in) was one titled Prozess II (2011), a six-foot tall canvas, deceptively simple, yet teaming with mystical overtones.

Against a backdrop of turquoise blue-green are two diagonal grey beams which begin in the lower half of the canvas and converge at a single point in the top-half—the effect being something of a distant horizon line or an homage to 16th century Renaissance perspective. Leiner reduces this to its simplest expression, however, finding complexity beyond the traditional narrative approach.

From the top juts down an irregular, off-white triangle, within which bursts a spray of neon (or fuchsia) pink. Such vibrancy, when set against the hard edges of the triangle and bold turquoise background, lures the viewer into its promise of wildness, which exists just beyond the wall.

There is also an abstract expressionist motif taking place between the two beams—a brief surge of brushwork—which draws the eye away from the painting’s hard geometry and further unfurls its subtle variations in color and mark-making. The cumulative effect is one of emotional content vying for recognition amidst the crushing rationalism that threatens our freedom.

Anabel Leider, "Prozess II" (2011), oil, spray, pigment paint on canvas 70"x55".

Anabel Leider, “Prozess II” (2011), oil, spray, pigment paint on canvas 70″x55″.

A similar mystical quality pervades Prozess I (2011): a work related in both color-scheme and title. Yet whereas II evokes a sense of distance and massive construct, Prozess I feels intimate, even claustrophobic.

The hard-edge appears strongest in the bottom 1/3 of the painting, where a charcoal-colored triangular shape is reinforced by an off-white beam emerging from the right side of the canvas. It culminates in more of that neon pink shade—the optical effect being one of a small corner of a bedroom or study. A monolithic pyramid, which looms from the top of the canvas, is suggestive of a divine presence having entered the space.

Leiner again deploys her expressionist palette to offset the hardness; yet this time it works to obscure the bold geometric shape rather than to draw the eye away from it. Indeed, a spate of energetic cross-hatches, as well as a stream of vertical drip marks, combine for an ecstatic display of communication between the physical and astral planes.

Anabel Leider, "Prozess I" (2011), oil, spray, pigment paint on canvas 70"x55".

Anabel Leider, “Prozess I” (2011), oil, spray, pigment paint on canvas 70″x55″.

Where Is My Mind (also 2011) is easily the most dynamic piece of Leiner’s work shown by the Lilac gallerists. It eschews much of the hard-edge quality that defined Prozess I and II, though not their monumentality. Mind heightens the existential feeling in fact via a number of new techniques used by the artist.

Firstly without the boldness of the monochromatic backdrop the painting is less obviously muscular. This notion is escalated by the dark, cloud-like shapes which whirl and billow from the center of the composition outwards.

Light greys, soft pinks, and shimmering whites broaden and brighten the painting’s background, giving its darker foreground shades—which also include several muddy browns and an enticing electric blue—both a three-dimensional quality and an azure enormity. Three diagonal lines shoot inward from both sides, reinforcing the sense of immortal beauty, whilst a central vanishing point is all but obscured by that mass of cloud formations.

These are visions we might call celestial—a loveliness that is sacred, infinite, the poetry of heaven. Mysticism and romanticism are combined through the shifting of day-magic colors and the inter-blending of light. An inexpressible reverence fills the mind of the observer as the holiness of beauty, the destructive force of nature, and the abstract mystery of the cosmos are each conjured in paint.

There is a musical quality to the work as well. It appears along the bottom of the composition—in brushstrokes which have the look of a seismographic chart. Leiner defines them by outlining several zig-zag marks with thin lines of that electric blue paint. It imposes order upon the aesthetic chaos, submitting the artist as a fully-awakened, self-conscious director in her own ecosystem.

Naturally this begs the question of determinism v. randomness, narrative v. abstraction; yet Leiner leaves that beyond the scope of the critical thinker. This experience belongs to the emotions alone. (Brian Chidester)

Anabel Leider, "Where Is My Mind" (2011), oil, spray, pigment paint on canvas 55"x47".

Anabel Leider, “Where Is My Mind” (2011), oil, spray, pigment paint on canvas 55″x47″.