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The Washington Post: Critical Review of ROSEMARY FEIT COVEY’s “Red Handed”

3 Jul

The Washington Post, Sunday June, 30, 2013, p. E2

Humanity’s collective guilt: A hellish experience

by Mark Jenkins

'Red Handed' : Rosemary Feit Covey's pictures, looser and messier than her usual woodblock prints, are reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch's work or Goya's Black Paintings.

‘Red Handed’ : Rosemary Feit Covey’s pictures, looser and messier than her usual woodblock prints, are reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch’s work or Goya’s Black Paintings.

In Celtic heraldry, the red hand represents a bloody, hard-won heritage. For Rosemary Feit Covey, whose “Red Handed” is on display at Morton Fine Art, the image has a different meaning: guilt. Her “installation experience” of mixed-media paintings and drawings catches the world red-handed, and the outcome looks like Hell.

That is, Covey’s suite recalls Hieronymus Bosch’s images of teeming, tormented humanity, as well as Francisco Goya’s despairing Black Paintings. Hundreds of red-handed, black-on-white androgynous figures line the walls, and even writhe underfoot. The South Africa-born, Washington-based artist has transferred some of her paintings to vinyl mats and arrayed them, overlapping variously, on the floor. She stopped short of the ceiling, but the experience of entering the gallery is immersive nonetheless.

Covey is known for her detailed wood block prints, a few of which are on display around the edges of this show. Her “Red Handed” pictures are looser, messier and more impulsive; precisely etched lines yield to expressionist strokes and spatters, sometimes atop collaged layers. Although gray, blue and brown tint some of the images, the emphasis on black and red suggests the artist’s background in simple, graphically direct printmaking. Long horizontal murals claim the room’s three walls, and on two of them the compositions are interrupted by other paintings, most of them miniatures. If Covey doesn’t document all nine circles of Dante’s Hell, she does offer multiple levels.

As a theme, guilt is wide-ranging, but these thronging pictures don’t suggest individual responsibility and solitary regret. The fault is clearly collective, widely known and unconcealable. Perhaps that’s why Covey was inspired to present these paintings as an installation. Everyone has done wrong at some point, so all those singular faults add up to mass culpability. To enter “Red Handed” is to be implicated.

Rosemary Feit Covey: Red Handed

On view through July 5 at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW; 202-628-2787;