In her latest canvases, on view for the first time in Los Angeles, New York painter Betty Weiss’s reduces her imagery to fundamental forms and essential elements.
Weiss's early canvases were composed of architectural grids with clean, defined lines that provided a view into a complex, mechanistic world. The emphasis was on the geometric order of the pictorial space. Gradually, however, she has loosened her grip on the strict grid format in an effort to distill the world around her into ever simpler and more basic forms. After a series for which she took the Silver Dollar plant as her motif and made beautiful compositions out of floral elements such as ovals, stems, and leaves, she recently turned to using lines as her preferred gestures.
Although some of her canvases are still organized into grids, most are organized by a fine structure of lines of different colors, thicknesses, and shapes. They are all arranged vertically on the canvas, and recall blades of grass undulating in the wind or waves of water moving along the shore. These recurring patterns have a meditative effect on the viewer and give the paintings a compelling appeal. Weiss’s choice of color adds depth to the two-dimensional works and pulls the viewer deep into them. She often works with complementary colors, such as orange lines on a blue background, and has a masterful command over her palette.
The intention of Weiss’s art is to create visually interesting statements. As she says, “Concept notwithstanding, for me the merit of any piece of art is in its visual interest and the pleasure that it provides.”
Betty Weiss was born in Chicago, Illinois. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago and also studied at the La Escuela de Pintura y Escultura in Mexico, where she lived for a number of years and where she met her husband, Hector Perez. It was through Perez, a political activist, that she encountered the great Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and Alfaro Siqueiros. Although she admired the grandiose scale and content of their works, she was most inspired by the vibrant colors and simple forms of the small-town haciendas that surrounded her—an influence that still informs her work today. In 1970, she moved to New York, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College of the City University of New York under the direction of Robert Swain. Her graduate studies were conducted under Ray Parker, also at Hunter College. She lives and works in Long Island City, New York.
Weiss’s solo exhibitions include a 1987 showing at Galerie Leif Stahle in Paris, France. Since 1980, she has been included in numerous group exhibitions, mostly in New York and New Jersey. In 1990, Weiss was the recipient of a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Her works are included in many prominent collections including those of the University Gallery of the State University of New York at Albany, New York; the Met Life Corporation, New York, New York; and the Islip Art Museum, Islip New York.