Lynda Caspe at the Bowery Gallery

by Charles Berger

February, 2010

Lynda Caspe has re-emerged after years of absence from the Bowery Gallery with two shows, one of paintings of New York City and upstate New York, the other of sculptural reliefs and drawings concerned with some of great dramas of the old testament.. The rural and city landscapes might be expected, since she now has homes both in the city and upstate. I was delighted by power and spatiality of the oils. A view of the mountain she lives on and the cascade of white clouds above it was special.

Even so, the bronze reliefs are the high points of the double show. Caspe captures the drama of the old biblical stories in her own idiom, naturalistic, yet radically modern, radically her own. In a rectangular bas relief of the story of Cain and Abel, she breaks the rectangle of the relief with the figure of Cain above the box, menacing Abel below, while other vignettes of the pair develop the psychologically charged story within the rectangle. The combination is visually exciting, and the viewer is drawn by the drama.

There is a second bas relief of the Cain and Abel story, this one smaller in scale, depicting Cain’s murder of the defenseless Abel. The tension and ferocity are stunning.

The power of the relief in which Abraham is deterred from sacrificing Isaac is remarkable – the grief in Abraham’s hollow eyes, the way in which Abraham, about to strike, shields Isaac’s face from his view since for the father to look on his son’s face as he is about to strike is intolerable, the angel mercifully intervening –

I asked Caspe when she became so fascinated by the Jewish Bible –

Caspe: “It wasn’t the Bible that fascinated me as much as the rabbinic commentaries on the old stories. Jewish theology itself is fascinating. There is no Satanic devil in Judaism who is a power apart from G-d. The principle of one G-d supreme, pure monotheism, prevents that possibility. So, when Jacob wrestles with the evil angel, he is actually wrestling with G-d – the evil angel is a part of G-d.

These stories and my art dealing with them relate not only to ancient sibling rivalries, but to modern day world conflicts that continue these ancient jealousies. Much of the hatred, war, and terrorism taking place today can be traced back millennia to the sibling rivalries in the family of Abraham that are the subject of this work.”

Lynda Caspe is the recipient of a Yaddo fellowship in sculpture and a Creative Artist Public Service Grant from New York State in painting.

The Caspe shows are at the Bowery Gallery, 530 West 25th Street in Chelsea, 4th Fl. 11-6 Tuesday-Saturday until February 27th.

                                                                                                       —Charles Berger
                                                                                                           Piermont, New York