GEORGE MCNEILby Robert Berlind
AMERINGER | MCENERY | YOHE
NOVEMBER 22, 2011 – JANUARY 21, 2012
Unlike the gestural abstractionists of his generation, George McNeil (1908-95) did not develop a signature format—yet only he could have made each painting in this show of work from the 1960s. Small improvisational “Landscape Motifs” on panel and large abstractions on canvas hint at eccentric images of places seen from above and the antic figuration of his later work. As always, McNeil’s successions of layers and revisions result in paintings that are more “arrived at” than preplanned. Depending on your sense of scale, a shape may seem like a promontory viewed from the air or a woman’s leg. Perhaps because the artist worked on a table or on the floor, rather than on a wall, there is no firm orientation or sense of a gravitational field. McNeil’s color bears the complexity and tonal range of naturalist description: strong contrasts, earth tones, deepest blues and reds, variegated greens. His paint application is gruff and various, and he builds textures with neither a consistency of touch nor an ingratiating refinement of surface. A strange combination of humor, irascibility, and gravitas sets McNeil apart from his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries and, for that matter, from everyone else.