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Beer with a Painter: Erika Ranee

By Jennifer Samet

May 28, 2016

Erika Ranee, “Zip-A-Dee-A” (2016), mixed media on canvas, 36 x 36 inches

I met Erika Ranee last summer when I took students to see a pop-up exhibition she curated in a Brooklyn studio, arranged around the theme of imagery of the eye. I was struck by how Ranee succinctly and clearly discussed the work, even as she addressed everything from its politics and subject matter to the studio processes of the artists in the show and her personal relationships with them. The exhibition included several artists of color, a variety of media, and both high profile and emerging artists. Ranee’s tour — and the conversation we had recently in her Bushwick studio — pointed to the fact that hers was an alternative canon of contemporary art and art history.

This personal pantheon, and diverse range of influences and impulses, catalyze Ranee’s painting. They are internalized and made visible in the variety of materials, which can include acrylic, oil, spray paint, shellac, and tape, and range of mark-making within the work — pouring, scrawling and cutting into forms. Ranee has transitioned from more overtly political imagery to an abstract narrative; the paintings nonetheless conjure passage through urban streets, with colors and marks that are fresh and distinctly of our time. They evoke the feeling of moving through a timeless terrain where our words or memories are embedded in matter – surfaces that are touched, adorned, and marred.