Linear Abstraction, Half Colors of Quarter Things, Off the Wall

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Just a quick trip into Chelsea, a surgical strike, as it were, zipping in and out as quickly as possible while still, one hopes, giving the art its due. I probably would've skipped it if not for my new Facebook friend Gary Petersen, who happened to have a couple of paintings in a new show at McKenzie Fine Art, which is pretty much irresistible to me.

Gary Petersen, Departure, 2008, oil on canvas, 50x36 inches

Gary Petersen, Departure, 2008, oil on canvas, 50x36 inches

Gary's a hard-edge abstraction painter, I guess you'd say, with his curving lines and bands of color. He's sort of like Frank Stella without the bombast -- Stella seems to demand that you like him because he's so IMPORTANT while Gary is just there, and you can like him if you want. Maybe that's a function of the scale of the work, since Gary's two paintings together probably don't make a quarter of the area of a typical Stella.

So the paintings won't blow your hair back but they are good, solid works. Jazzy enough to keep from being wallpaper. And I like Gary's color choices. I asked him how he works out his color schemes and he confided in me -- I hope it wasn't too confidential -- that he makes it up as he goes along. He said one of his teachers once told him his color sense was dreadful and he needed a course in color theory, but Gary managed to avoid it, and I like the results.

I wish there were more of his paintings in the show so I could have more to write about them, but there are just the two; and they're the best things there. I can't even be critical of the other work because it slid right past my consciousness like an overcooked egg off a plate.

Next door at the usually uninteresting Jeff Bailey Gallery things weren't much better: A few interesting things sprinkled between some deeply boring things, with a set of paintings kind of in the middle.

Zohar Lazar, Slow Peel, 2008, gouache on paper, 15x22 inches

Zohar Lazar, Slow Peel, 2008, gouache on paper, 15x22 inches

On the interesting side is Zohar Lazar and his part Surreal, part James Rosenquist gouaches. Right there you're thinking wackiness, but somehow the mix is less wacky and more intense, although not, to my mind, as intense as it wants to be. These paintings have all the self-seriousness of classic Surrealism but lack its creepy inscrutability; they don't exactly make sense, but they seem to fit together a little more comfortably than they should. The gouache certainly robs the paintings of some of their impact. Zohar's technique is excellent but the inherent flatness, the heaviness of the medium drags down his imagery. No matter how much you work at it, it's hard to make a car shine in gouache.

Chris Gentile, End Times/Amend Times #2, 2008, C-print, ed. 5, 14x11 inches

Chris Gentile, End Times/Amend Times #2, 2008, C-print, ed. 5, 114x11 inches

Chris Gentile, meanwhile, holds up the bottom end with a short series of hilariously pretentiously titled photos. Photos of...I don't know. Stuff. Maybe not even photos. Maybe Photoshopped images. Maybe raytracings. I have no idea and have no interest in finding out. They're visually inert.

Joshua Marsh, Pitcher (square), 2008, oil on panel, 16x16 inches

Joshua Marsh, Pitcher (square), 2008, oil on panel, 16x16 inches

Somewhere in the middle is the work of Joshua Marsh, whose simple but blazingly bright still lifes invite further inspection and then turn out not to be as interesting as you thought. They look sort of like photo negatives, and studies of negative space, and there's some exploration of shapes within shapes, and then it all sort of fails to come together in any kind of coherent way. There's something here, and I hope Joshua goes digging for it, but at the moment it's not enough.

Finally I stopped in Lennon, Weinberg because I saw some more hard-edge paintings and thought I'd see what it was. It turned out to be Off the Wall, a show mainly interesting for the large number of French people at the opening, there to see, I guess, the five French artists in the show.

The show's gimmick is a lot less fun than that, though. "Off the Wall" -- this one guy, he painted right on the wall! Far out! And this other guy, his sculpture grows, like, out of the wall! Sort of! And this other artist, they piled a whole bunch of boxes!

Maybe Mr. Lennon's dad or Mr. Weinberg's father-in-law is in the housepaint business or something and the gallery's just a showplace for painting over different types of stains -- acrylics! graphite! oil pastel! -- since Stephen Westfall had just painted the back wall of the room which now hosts the pointless scribblings of Gilgian Gelzer.

Off the Wall, installation view (Pierre Mabille, Philippe Richard), 2009

Off the Wall, installation view (Pierre Mabile, Philippe Richard), 2009

Pierre Mabille's paintings -- and don't forget the parts that are Off the Wall! -- are a little better, if, I guess, you really like those little wooden plugs used to repair knots in plywood. In different contrasting colors. Frederique Lucien cuts up her canvas -- exciting and transgressive. And Philippe Richard has a tangle of multicolored sticks which reminds me strongly of something I've seen somewhere else but can't place. Maybe a kid's construction toy.

Altogether deeply shallow. Time to go home!

1 Comment

Hola NYC art,no conocia a Slow Peel, gracias por presentarlo.Pasate por Apuntes criticos, (te invito).

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