Toni Silber-Delerive
Two imaginative bodies of work by Toni Silber-Delerive are concerned with enlivening everyday experience, making us aware of what is often overlooked and see the familiar in a new way.
A cache of photographs – ranging from vintage to ultra-new – is the source for her art. Her figurative work is often based on images of her family that go back generations. She is then inspired by the trademark clothes of an era such as the cloche hats of the 1920 and highlights telling details as in "Embassy club", her most involving figurative painting, where the red fingernails of a woman are riveting because they contrast with the literal drabness of the three men at the table with her. The painting seems bathed in bright light and is a sort of homage to the ambience of nightclubs in mid-century where on-hand photographers would take a quick flash photo of a table grouping and sell it as a souvenir. Silber-Delerive neatly captures the essence of the moment and renders immortal a trivial incident from a bygone era.
The second body of work is literally loftier and remarkable in its scope and ambition. It chronicles the contemporary world and is based on a collection of dispassionate images. The thread running through them is our variegated planet seen from the air. The startling and unexpected is chronicled along with the predictable. Tract housing, a metaphor for predictability, becomes engaging nevertheless because the aerial vantage point flattens perspective and the look-alike houses all become essential contributors to an overall abstract pattern. One of the most daring compositions features the aggressive triangular form of "Airport and Station, Lyons, France." Here is a daring example of contemporary architecture serving as the anchor for a bold abstract painting. A closer-to-home counterpart of the "Airport and Station" is the elaborately complex cloverleaf of "Intersection."
The American scene that has preoccupied artists since the 1920s is a major source for several landscapes. These include "Philadelphia Utility Plant" with its evocatively complex details. Lately paintings have become more challenging and vertiginous with the particulars of a landscape often submerged in brightly colored meandering compositions. The subject is often and appropriately a place of abandon viewed from on high. "Carnival" and "Düsseldorf" are both characterized by circularity and the energy that comes from this. It's like the movement of gear wheels. The fact that "Carnival" is festive and "Düsseldorf" sober and purposeful speaks to the essential unity of her vision that is expressed in the widest range of subjects.
Silber-Delerive astutely cites two diverse, yet related, painters as her major influences: Edward Hopper and Richard Diebenkorn. Hopper is present through his compelling subject matter while Diebenkorn is exemplary for the distinctive hard-edge abstractions based on his corner of the world. The dynamic created by this pairing is vital for Toni Silber-Delerive's compelling, even startling, inventory of the complex world we live in.

William Zimmer is an art critic who has achieved international status through his catalog essays. He was a contributing critic to the New York Times for almost 25 years.