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One River Gallery - Englewood, New Jersey
Curated by Stephen Truax

By Tatiana Berg

“LOVE” feels devoid of a lot the hang-ups that are often applied when painting is discussed. An 11-artist show at the recently opened One River Gallery in Englewood, New Jersey, it surveys a certain kind of abstraction getting painted in Brooklyn today. Typified by a breezy confidence, materiality and gesture are emphasized without needing to be defensive about it. Questions about the survival of painting feel like a problem that belongs to someone else right now, and this generation of painters-rather than feeling disappointed that they got late to the party-are happy for the company that history provides.

In a variety of media and styles many pieces share in common a certain thinness of paint and a brightness of color, emphasizing luminosity and jewel tones. Clinton King’s Improvised Weaponry (2011) is a somber blue field, kissed on either side with touches of fuzzy black spray paint. Allie Pisarro-Grant’s canvases are crowded with specks of fabric dye that bloom like pixels and glow like snowy television screens. I have a pet theory that the current prevalence of transparent, luminous paintings is a response to the backlit computer and smartphone screen-and there are a lot of backlit paintings here.

Clinton King, Improvised Weaponry, 2011, oil and spray enamel on canvas, 59” x 39.5”. Courtesy of the artist.

Clinton King, Improvised Weaponry, 2011, oil and spray enamel on canvas, 59” x 39.5”. Courtesy of the artist.

There’s a playful sculpture, too, with Christian Sampson’s contribution of a deck-of-cards stack of plexiglass panels in sweet sorbet tones, casting colorful shadows on the floor. It’s color devoid of a ground, and you wonder if maybe this is what some of the other work in the show would look like if their paint were carefully peeled off their supports and propped upright. Connections like this form as part of an easy camaraderie among the installation, where more established artists like Marc Handelman and Chris Martin anchor the room but remain modestly off to the side, making room for the emerging, energetic talent.

Curator Stephen Truax asks himself to justify the existence of yet another abstract painting show in an already crowded field, and he concludes his catalogue essay with the simple and reassuring reason that, love. Because love. Truax argues that these artists are most unified, not by their materials or their geography, but by their “romantic and emotional engagement with painting and its history.” “LOVE” is for those who cannot disentangle themselves from a languorous, all-consuming affair with their medium, and that is reason enough to want to watch. It has felt out of fashion for a while now to emphasize an emotional impulse over a critical one, so it’s refreshing “LOVE” is on the “have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too” diet, where you get to have beauty and content.

Beyond formal resemblance the significant similarity is a shared undercurrent of material delight and indulgence. While there’s quoting of past style and technique, a knowing contribution to a larger discussion of painting at hand, more than anything there’s playfulness and a hunt for a personal gestural vocabulary, a very old and simple impetus for painting. Painting may not be so difficult, the artists here suggest. And anyone paying attention will see it thriving.

(November 11 - December 21 2012)

Tatiana Berg is an artist and arts writer based in Brooklyn.

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