Carrie Rudd
The Narcissism of Small Differences
April 3 -May 4, 2024

Polina Berlin Gallery is pleased to present The Narcissism of Small Differences, an exhibition of new paintings by Carrie Rudd, on view from April 3 through May 4, 2024.

How do you speak the language of painting? Is it a single brushstroke, a carefully-rendered surface, a choice of color? In the case of abstraction, language becomes even more slippery, fleeting from the grasp of how we talk about art.

For Rudd, ideas are emotional, expression is intellectual, and communicating feeling becomes possible through carefully-rendered swaths of paint on the canvas. Her paintings, each one a microcosm of colorful abstraction, are ways for her to work through and think critically about narratives of her own lived experiences — both historical and contemporary. Rudd’s hagiography of her family, conversations that happen in passing, a mishap at the now-shuttered Sammy's Roumanian restaurant on the Lower East Side — all of these moments become fodder for her work; bits of visual ephemera strewn on the canvas.

Rudd meticulously builds up each painting according to its own demand, describing each one as an essay that can exist independently. Tubular forms in Yves Klein blue, stoplight red and emerald lead viewers into arteries that spit them out into a deposit of organic shapes formed with bold, painterly brushstrokes. There is much opposition to be explored within Rudd’s vibrant worlds: paint application that is deliberate versus free-flowing, compositions that are crowded yet spare, and an interplay between background, middleground and foreground. The precarity of her compositions — squares that look like they can fall off at any given moment, dancing between assertiveness and imminent collapse, is the zone that Rudd operates in. Striking a delicate balance between right and wrong, her works are off-kilter and a bit hazardous but somehow, they seem to work.

This surface tension is where Rudd shines, removing paint and layering it back up — her ideas point to multiple possibilities of perception in the future. “Almost all my paintings have an area that I don't touch, so there's this extreme play of surface,” she says. “That to me, mimics the psychological and cerebral process of how an idea is formed via past, present, future. My ideas ultimately become what they are via this process of mixing something that happened in the past, with something that I'm thinking about right now in the current moment.”

Rudd’s fascination with words and language embodies her work. Notes, journals, diaries, post-its and sketchbooks envelop her livelihood, their sentences and sentiments finding their way into her practice. These writings create problems — ones that only painting can continue to wrestle with. Her elaborate artwork titles, stories in their own right, serve as a guiding force through the paintings, for the said challenges she has established for herself. It’s up to the viewer to take what they want from each painting— a choose your own adventure of sorts.

The piece “All the Daggers They’ll Throw: Write Them Down” incorporates childhood memories of post-it notes she remembers finding around the house, coupled with the post-it notes she has subconsciously continued to jot down in her adult life. A rectangular mass of geometric shapes converge at the center of the canvas, spiraling out like a giant tornado. Another, titled “CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE KING OF THE JUNGLE. PROFESSOR BURNT TOAST HAS BEEN DEFEATED.” is based on a computer game from Rudd’s youth, inspired by a waffle crisp cereal. Mirroring the cereal’s honeycomb crevices, the game serves as inspiration for the composition, which presents itself as a frame of individual rectangles bordering its edges, each one its own miniature painting.

The painting’s concept comes from what Rudd describes as a multitude of pathways or stepping stones to enter into, go through and exit out of, rather than being sucked into the painting and getting lost in it as an escape from the real world. “I’m more interested in thinking deeper and harder about what we actually face in our reality, versus creating a fantasy to deflect that,” she says. Similar to engaging with a computer game, the painting’s ultimate “goal” is to get out of its maze — to complete the challenge and leave it behind, always pushing forward to the next thing. Through its physical, material and formal components, the painting excavates a childhood experience, mimicking the same thrill of pushing through obstacles and accomplishment.

Rudd’s paintings - and their language - are about collapse and creation. What can be rebuilt from its ashes? Her obsession with language is one that’s almost impossible: “Painting is a way of trying to eradicate language, to get around having to use it,” she says. Perhaps the approach then, is one that doesn’t require words.

- Dalya Benor

Carrie Rudd (b. 1994, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York) lives and works in New York. She completed her MFA at Hunter College in 2021. Her work has been included in exhibitions at Chapter NY (New York), 12:26 (Dallas, Texas), Hunter College (New York), Hauser & Wirth (New York) and the Wellin Museum of Art (Clinton, New York).

72 x 72 inches, 182.9 x 182.9 cm / Photo: Steven Probert

Lack There of NOT, 2024, oil on canvas
48 x 36 inches, 121.9 x 91.4 cm / Photo: Steven Probert

All the Daggers They’ll Throw: Write Them Down, 2024, oil on canvas
84 x 60 inches, 213.4 x 152.4 cm / Photo: Steven Probert

“There are certain aspects of the many similarities and differences.”, 2024, oil on canvas
66 x 51 inches, 167.6 x 129.5 cm / Photo: Steven Probert

“I think your paintings are fantastic; I love your latest paintings”, 2024, oil on canvas
48 x 40 inches, 121.9 x 101.6 cm / Photo: Steven Probert

You Just Ate the Ceiling/ You Have Asbestos by Deepthroat/ This is Your Consequence for Being Open, 2024, oil on canvas
84 x 60 inches, 213.4 x 152.4 cm / Photo: Steven Probert