Kim Bricker Jersey City

Kim Bricker’s work is a dare.  Not a loud or boastful one, and certainly not an aggressive one, but a challenge nonetheless.  Hers is the quiet, measured voice at the party that is somehow heard over the din.  What she asks of you is to step close and concentrate.  She wants you to use your eyes differently from the way you’re accustomed to using them.  You’re not to accept the lovely hues and textures of her envelope-sized monotype prints and speed on.  To appreciate what she’s doing, you’ve got to slow down the pace of your perception.  Bricker encourages you to ease the frame rate.  When you do, her pieces open like tiny jewel boxes.  Frame by frame, woodblock by woodblock, Bricker’s prints teach you how to look at them.  

At group show, Bricker’s work often feels like a respite from noisier art — like listening to wind chimes after a symphonic overture.  But a single note struck on a triangle is still an amalgam of complicated waves. View Kim Bricker’s work without interference, as you can at the ArtWall at the Powerhouse CoolVines (350 Warren St., accessible whenever the store is open), and you’re bound to catch some heavy overtones. Though the show is called “Drifting,” it’s not aimless at all.  Instead, it’s as coherent as a drawerful of vacation Polaroids.  Bricker has speedily developed one of the town’s most recognizable visual signatures.  Muted colors like faded paint on stucco, the sprinkle of red and orange dots on rust brown and twilight blue, the rounded imprint of her plates, the radiant nimbuses of ink, the panels of small parallel prints connoting wild landscapes and the rising and setting of the sun, and light like that which you might see after a midday shower: it’s all present at a sixteen-piece exhibition that feels like an idyll, and an opportunity for an emerging local star to step into a deserved solo spotlight.  

In most Kim Bricker prints, a horizontal line bisects a pair of colored regions.  Though these color fields are never uniform in tone, they’re consistent enough that their handshake at the middle of her rectangular images is emphatic, and provides her pieces with more drama than an artist can usually expect to pack into postcard-sized paper and wood panels.  It takes about a second of looking for these pieces to take on the character of nature studies: meetings of sea and sky, or mountain and earth, or air and water.  Then the really exciting thing happens.  These landscape meditations start to get awfully specific — so specific that it becomes a little spooky.  The patient viewer will notice snow-covered peaks under cloudy skies in “Game Creek Autumn,” the undulations of waves in “North Beach,” the curve of the clouds in the beautiful “Somers Point Sunset,” the high and lonesome sky on “Friday Night on the Thruway.”  All of this is sensitively rendered and not immediately apparent. A Bricker print reveals secrets slowly and steadily; it drops breadcrumbs; it gently exhales. It asks: how deep do you want to go? 

The titles of the pieces are an indication that these prints aren’t mere evocations of emotional states. For this artist, the land is not a mirror.  These are real places that Bricker is showing us — genuine memories she’s summoning and preserving.  Because it’s impossible to capture the sun as it marches across the sky or the shadows as they amass on the surface of the lake in a still image, photorealism is insufficient for what she’s trying to do. Bricker represents the passage of time by making room for parallel columns of pigment, each with slightly different shading and tonality. In “Leaving the Valley,” the leftmost rectangle is awash in light and steam; as the print is read, the image clarifies and its contents are articulated. “Shifting Reflections,” too, tracks the progress of the sun across a mountain range, as colors shift from pearly blue to shadowy grey. That Bricker can jam this much descriptive meaning into panels that are scarcely bigger than a postcard is testament to her skills as a miniaturist; that she chases the clock as doggedly as any she does suggests she’s got latent storytelling talent.

A casual observer might say that Kim Bricker’s prints all look similar.  That observer wouldn’t be wrong.  The printmaker pushes herself to add detail and character to her images, but if she’s ventured beyond the horizon and the rectangular landscapes with the rounded edges, she hasn’t shown that work in local galleries yet.  As she busily refines her vision, the particulars of each of her prints immunizes her from the charge that she’s being repetitious.  My guess is that Bricker has plenty of tricks up her sleeve, and she will, sooner or later, apply the time-lapse mechanics of her current work to bigger, louder, and more ambitious pieces.  But even if she never turns up the volume, it’s a pleasure to hear her audacious, mellifluous whisper.

Tris McCall has written about art, architecture, performance, politics, and public culture for many publications, including the Newark Star-Ledger, the Bergen Record, Jersey Beat, the Jersey City Reporter,...