When I look at a painting by Joan Snyder, I find that I’m immediately in the midst of things, and I enjoy letting the hurly-burly get to me. Snyder’s impastoed paint and scrawled words and collaged found objects aren’t ends but means, the means to express her belief that in art too much may be just enough. In Snyder’s work too-muchness is a value, a principle. When Snyder presents what amounts to an artist’s version of everything the world contains, she means to evoke sensations of confusion, exhilaration, catharsis. This is an Expressionist vision, but even if certain of Snyder’s works are about wallowing in feeling, she herself keeps a remarkably clear head. In the small retrospective of Snyder’s work that was at the Allentown Art Museum in the fall and early winter, Snyder came through as the thinking person’s Expressionist. It is the pictorial control that she exerts that allows a viewer to let go.


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now