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Colleen Herman's work in "A Longed-For Bed" pushes the artist out to the limits of her potential. As though she is a rubber band knowing exactly how far she can stretch herself and her audience without breaking totally from her legacy of work. This show could be mistaken for a retrospective of her oeuvre, with chapters pulled from a practice decades long in growth. It's all happening now!

This body of work pushes far beyond the now-safer-looking fields of flowers that have comprised her practice for the past couple of years. She pushes herself in medium, style, distance from her subject (closeups : god-like omniscience) + palette (monochromes : red-threads of sage-y green and naples yellow) and has done so at a courageous scale! In fact COURAGE, as much as the erotic- around whose theme the collection is centered- is the key word of this show. 

Fans of her past work will find footholds and bridges to her new perspectives, but I feel that these are fresh new POVs. Furthermore her work for the first time tells us what to see, more so than waiting in patient receptivity. She didn't push these works out of her body and soul to hear your thoughts on them. She is telling you her vision, dammit!

The other huge force in the room, if you are lucky enough to stand in the room for which they were specifically created, is the momentum created by their specific display. Scaled to abutt edge-to-edge across the Olympia walls, they run across two walls of the cozy space, creating the sense of a film strip or kinetoscope. They reveal themselves in turn like scales of a mirrored disco ball shining under the spotlight. Viewed together by intention, they become one story, one work, clearly springing from one family, one mind. Only at the edge of the eastern wall do they stop for a breath between the final three. Slowing their sprint for the two greatest leaps of faith in the room: a huge graphite-silver monochrome still life and a dark and explosive black + blue lily- maybe the most identifiably objective work I've seen from Colleen in years. Inky and crusted with pitch dark midnight blue paired with its opposite end of the spectrum cool-warm silvery etching-not etching. 

The overall character of the room is that of a millenial-worthy display of fireworks, which only stops short of stunning you one-by-one because of the equally matched intensity of every work to its right and left. I didn't even mention the red monochrome or the Vortex. So massive is this body that I could leave out things as monumental as a body-sized cadmium red still life and a multi-faceted diptych vortex. 

If you are coming to her work for the first time, I warn you: this is the deep end. Though having watched her work evolve over the past few years, I could also say there is no shallow end in sight.

Published December 15, 2023

Written by Kimmy Quillin


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