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Devora Primack's Paintings at Artsphere Gallery


My ex-mother-in-law worked next to Devora Primack in the old Social Security office in downtown Buffalo. She use to say even the Marx Brothers had nothing on the daily comic chaos of working in the SSA.

Primack, too, found the stresses working in an atmosphere of conflict and struggle over the course of 20 years to leave an indelible mark on her outlook on life. She stared across a desk into the worried, anxious, haunted, desperate expressions of individuals whose lives had somehow turned traitor to their dreams. These qualities appear in the absorbing faces of her paintings. Almost exclusively worked with a palette knife, these stylized faces are rendered in jagged geometrically squared flourishes of pink and blue, a Klee-like palette often incongruous to the emotional expression in the work. Primack studied with UB art professor and painter Walter Prochownik, who much admired her work.

Her inspiration derives from family life and thoughts of her childhood. As she recalls in her artist’s statement, “the powerlessness of a small child and the unreasonableness of loving parents make me look on childhood as a time of pain.”

Another abiding source of inspiration also comes from the myriad threats to the future and especially children’s future. As is often the case calamities such as ethnic conflicts, genocide and poor construction practices only rise to world attention if there are a sizable number of children among the dead. Her paintings speak for the babies lost and children separated from parents in apparent moments of helplessness. Her faces of adults are jammed against each other, packed like sardines in one painting, stacked like bowling balls in another, the colors weighted in troughs of impasto, dark unyielding to light, the eyes distorted beacons in otherwise dense patchworks of pigment slathered like tar on a roof.

Visiting her in her studio at Tri-Main’s Buffalo Arts Studio, I was always taken with the primitive spontaneity of her compositions and looked forward to seeing what she put her knife to next.

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