Art | Basel Miami Beach 2017 Highlights: Deborah Tarr at LPH

Who says contemporary artists hate the past? Deborah Tarr’s new work on display at the LPH boot of the Pulse Miami art fair during Art | Basel Miami Beach was a uniquely pro-modernist look at painting by a contemporary artist who understands irony.

Replete with subdued hues of earthy reds and yellow ochres, steely greys and somber blacks, Ms. Tarr’s paintings, mounted salon-style, represent a strange kind of fresh air in a current painting scene filled with scrawls, cartooniness and awkward attempts at camp and kitsch that never generate lift-off on the trajectory to novelty.

I spoke with Lucasta Partridge-Hicks, the director of LPH and she mentioned to me that Deborah Tarr is interested in creating something comforting, almost cozy in her work, each of which on view are framed in elegant and traditional semi-ornate frames, a very bold and rare move by a contemporary painter.

The abstract paintings proudly display their homage to painters like Milton Avery, Marsden Hartley and even Richard Diebenkorn in their embrace of high modernist colorings and delicate compositions mostly made of color fields. The British-born artist often sells her work directly to collectors, via her gallery presumably, before they go on view to the public.

Founded by Ms. Partridge-Hicks, LPH declares in its mission statement the goal of expanding the reach of British artists in the United States. With Ms. Tarr’s work it is expected that major strides toward this endeavor were successful. Mixed in with the usual array of underwhelming work and crowded corridors of Miami Beach gawkers, Ms. Tarr’s paintings were far too present, far too dignified, and far too complex for the venue I experienced them in.

The future is surely bright for this young painter and I hope I can next see her work in a more elegant setting. The paintings are gorgeous with that right blend of heart-felt painterly skill and ironic distance from their historical moment.

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