The images can barely be seen on (well, mostly behind) the Plexi surfaces, and gain any sort of visual traction at all from the shadows they cast behind themselves. In fact, though, it’s the other way around: Lefrak’s unique technique and the diffident imagery that results comment on our tendency to miss the most fascinating things around us and goad us into looking harder by tantalizing our eyes with traces of the pictorial, wisps of reality.
"Top Summer Shows You Can Still Catch, North and South" by Kathryn M. Davis, Huffington Post, September 2010
And here lies the secret to Lefrak's subject of the landscape as narrative: she chooses locations that are quite out of the way, not your typical tourist fare, and allows these well-worn places to tell their own stories in their own time. There's a whole world there, in each subtle line.
"Past as Presence, Joanne Lefrak at Box Gallery" by Malissa Kullberg, Santa Fe Downtown, August 2010
Like any good works of art, Lefrak's pieces unveil in layers. The fact that she scratched her drawings onto Plexiglas is an immediately appreciable neat trick, especially for anyone who has ever tried NOT to scratch plexi and knows just how touchy a medium it is. And it's also quite cool that wall-mounting and front-lighting these scratched plexi panels reveals pallid but precise images in shadow. What follows is what you feel: the haunting resonance of powerful times past–at the Trinity Site, testing ground for atomic bombs, and in the faint, memory-bent remnants of a vigorous family life echoed in a present day ghost town.
"Past as Presence: Joanne Lefrak" by Kathryn Crocker, AdobeAirstream, August 2010
Painstaking detail speaks to moments of mental clarity, historical truths, and the deeper human understanding of (in the instance of the Trinity Site) place. Like the light casting over a Lefrak drawing, discovering that a landscape holds more meaning than initially meets the eye is revelatory. The light source hitting the Plexiglas to reveal an image correlates to the experience of discovering truth, or learning something new. However, the tenuousness of the light source suggests the ease with which the past can be distorted, or obscured. The shadow play reminds viewers that every place carries a history beneath its surface. And, the ethereal look of the drawings requires careful focus on each scene. This is an invitation from the artist to go deeper in your understanding in order to change your perspective.
"From Santa Fe: Past as Presence" by Randall Miller, Art Practical, August 2010
The photographic quality of Lefrak's renderings plays between the dichotomy of visibility and its opposite by relying on the poetry of shadow and dissolve as a space for the contemplation of memory, history, and consequence. Like our memories and the stories we tell, Lefrak's shadows create their own reality, at once vivid and fugitive.
"InVisible: Art at the Edge of Perception at MASS MoCA" by Katia Zavistovski, MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, February 2010
The inspiration for these works was the site of the first atomic bomb test in 1945, conducted on the White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico. Coincidentally, the artist discovered that the Sprague Electric Company, the previous tenants of the factory complex that now houses MASS MoCA, manufactured electrical components used to produce the bomb at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Like many of Lefrak's works, which conflate absence and presence, foreground and background, the Trinity series also mingles past and present, linking the history of her home state – one which has become shadowy in our minds – with that of the current exhibition site.
"Joanne Lefrak at the Center for Contemporary Arts" by Sarah King, Art in America, January 2007
Building upon symbolist and decorative traditions of still-life drawing, these compositions also evoke a wide range of associations, including botanical drawings by Mondrian, Phillip Otto Runge, and Ellsworth Kelly; Odilon Redon's charcoal depictions of part plant/part human creatures; and 19th-century silhouette painting and Islamic tracery.