A Limited Engagement: Works by Tatjana Krizmanic

B Deemer Gallery, Louisville, Kentucky

By Christine Huskisson

What I dream of is an art of balance, or purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue. – Matisse


With a nagging hangover that is certainly a condition of life lived with the panoptic effects of the internet, I thudded up the concrete steps to the B. Deemer Gallery at 2650 Frankfort Avenue in my heavy black Chanel boots and dark sunglasses. World news droned from a BBC iPhone app through my state-of-the-art Skullcandy headphones when I opened the front door to find that someone was throwing a party with the Fauves.

The B. Deemer Gallery opened in 1990 when, according to owner Brenda Deemer, artwork was selling in Louisville, Kentucky. Openings were crowded and the scene was robust. After years of poor attendance and only modest sales, it is no wonder that Deemer invited us back to a show of color.  Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, and Cezanne – all of whom were major influences on the work of Tatjana Krizmanic – were all there.

This was a small gathering; no more than ten of Krizmanic’s paintings and pastels were included. Through her brilliant and expressive use of subject matter, color and space the works in this exhibit – together as they related to one another – recalled the Saturday evening salons hosted by Leo and Gertrude Stein at 27 Rue de Fleurus in Paris in the early 1900s.

Tatjana Krizmanic was born in Croatia and began painting at age fourteen. She moved to Washington D.C. after studying at the University of Zagreb and now resides in Colorado. Compared to an art world dominated by inflated e-Flux press releases and world-wide biennales, her work in this exhibition should pale; unless these are individually elaborate, well-decorated curtains drawn over our prescient realities of gray. Parties end and curtains open: thus Deemer’s chosen title “A Limited Engagement’ was highly fitting.

Moving beyond the lurid patches of color that first appeared in one of the most highly criticized works of the Fauve movement, Matisse’s Woman with the Hat from 1906, Krizmanic’s use of color is more harmonious.  Faces, as that in Girl with a Violin, are framed by an explosion of color. Krizmanic’s technique is less tense; she butts color blocks right up against one another as though they now belong together.

Krizmanic furthers her unashamed representation of harmony and joy by repeating pleasant forms and shapes. In a flattened pictorial space, these repeated forms serve to unify the overall composition. Heart-shaped lips in works like Once Upon a Summertime recall Matisse’s use of vines in the tablecloth, wallpaper and branches of the trees in his Harmony in Red from 1908. Krizmanic and Matisse prefer only a glimpse of the world outside more intent on keeping us carefully guarded from it while we contemplate our interiors.

In both her interiors and landscapes – iBALI! and Summer Blessings – Krizmanic intentionally crowds form and color enfolding us into these carefree and happy places. Her technique and straightforward approach – which for many would reward no scrutiny – serve to mask a world where we are forever at odds with one another and Facebook posts and Twitter feeds are all we know. Crescent-moon shaped arms that embrace soften bi-paritisan banter.  Heart shaped lips momentarily abate the wails of women dying in Afghanistan after bearing a child or those being gang raped in South Africa. While Krizmanic does not advance any political agenda, these works become very useful when compared to the cacophony and ugliness that is our present reality.

While Matisse is Krizmanic’s major influence, it is her strong use of line and a flatness of the image that moves this work beyond mere derivation. The linear quality in works like Morning at the Pond are clear evidence that she does not depend on only color to impact. In a confident manner, she defies the academic theorists who say that painting is dead and that there remains no necessary link to history. On further inspection, the flatness in Krizmanic’s work recalls the Persian influences on Matisse as seen in his Still Life with Sleeping Woman from 1940 – debunking the postmodernist claim to having invented multiculturalism. Her use of this flatness too signals Krizmanic’s understanding of Matisse’s artistic development from the Fauve period to that of his most mature decorative style found in Woman in a Purple Coat from 1937. It might too be noted that her placement of colors so successfully one next to the other acknowledges a more contemporary influence: the color harmonics of Hans Hofman.

Krizmanic denies aesthetic entropy and remains convinced that even after twenty-five years of contemporary art where lack of narrative has become the norm, certain values do not change. Fields of flat, decorative color  – what some might characterize as mere myopic refreshment – return us to a proposition that art was once and still can be about beauty. She intentionally mines what we once valued in our relationships to each other, the land, our pets, and our towns. It is a happy notion, not unlike that expressed by Marc Chagall’s I and the Village from 1911.

Krizmanic’s contribution to contemporary art is a reawakening of lyrical representation through the bold use of color, line and mimetic form. Cartooning with pastel crayons she portrays harmony. Therein lies the essence of this work: it is joyful enough to make the viewer glad even if only for a brief moment.




Woman with a Hat, Matisse,1905




Young Girl with Violin, Tatjana Krizmanic




Once Upon a Summertime, Tatjana Krizmanic


Harmony in Red, Henri Matisse, 1906




Summer Blessings, Tatjana Krizmanic


iBAILA!, Tatjana Krizmanic


I and the Village, Marc Chagall, 1911.






Morning at the Pond, Tatjana Krizmanic


Still Life with Sleeping Woman, Henri Matisse, 1940


Woman in a Purple Coat, Matisse, 1937










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