Material Takby Jonathan Goodman
PANEPINTO GALLERIES, JERSEY CITY | JUNE 8 – JULY 15, 2012
It looks like there is an increasingly vital art scene in some of the tough urban areas of New Jersey, most especially Newark and Jersey City, where the cost of studio space is much more reasonable than in the chic, art-oriented neighborhoods of New York. Material Tak is curated by Kara L. Rooney, an artist recently of Jersey City and an art editor at the Brooklyn Rail, who doesn’t confine her choices to New Jersey artists alone: Mark Dagley is from Jersey City, and Kati Vilim, originally from Budapest, is in Newark, but Peter Fox’s studio is located in Brooklyn, as is Jsun Laliberté’s, while Anne Sherwood Pundyk hails from Manhattan. The gallery itself occupies a well-kept warehouse in Jersey City, a large space in which the five painters were able to exhibit both large and small canvases to their advantage. Ostensibly a show demonstrating new painting as a lively—as opposed to moribund—art, Material Tak also makes a convincing argument that the art world is spawning interesting work in sites other than Chelsea and Brooklyn. The vitality and, importantly, the variety and ambition of these five painters makes it clear that painting is far from dead, even if it requires some travel to discover the energy of its current circumstances.
Vilim’s paintings come out of the Constructivist tradition, and she is gifted at arranging abstract geometric shapes in patterns that include overlaps and shadows. Vilim revivifies a tradition whose initial implications were social and political as well as aesthetic. “3D-2D” (2011), a marvelously intricate work constructed through the repetition of red, blue, yellow, and green shapes, shows how the geometric painting tradition may be relaunched into areas that suggest, but do not completely embrace, Op Art. Fox’s “Beyond the Valley of the Shadow” (2011) consists of rows of superimposed, multicolored small drips: yellow on top of blue on top of red on top of white. The individual forms work together to achieve an original vision of abstract art that celebrates both a disciplined regularity and a cursive freedom. The effect is mesmerizing.
Laliberté’s abstraction, “Untitled (371),” is vast—182 by 90 1/4 inches—and the work manages both to contain and to express powerful feeling. Closest to a roiling cloud storm, the canvas builds a sense of suspense, even the feeling of danger, with its twisted, turning forms hanging over and overlapping each other. Laliberté’s palette is subtle, yet greens, blues, and oranges stand out, seemingly rushing toward the viewer, who may feel as though the painting can literally be walked into. Here, as in the case of all five painters, we have an abstract language that confronts and cajoles us into accepting the legacy of nonfigurative art.
In the case of the large, mandala-like works of Dagley, the art moves back toward the rational, as happens in “Yellow Purple Orb” (2006). Purple tape, originating from equidistant points placed on the outer circumference of a luminous lined circle, is connected to every other point in the circle. Together, the lines create another circle in the center of the painting. It is an intriguing image, made more so by the fact that the strips are not perfectly aligned; this bit of human error makes the overall experience of Dagley’s painting that much more accessible and attractive.
Finally, Pundyk (a Brooklyn Rail contributor) offers “Parallax Painting”(2011), a wall installation that includes a number of individual works, each with its own title. One of the paintings, “Mike Running” (2012), is a vehemently expressive abstract work that includes, in the top half of the painting, random, overlaid splotches and spills—all in different colors, including red, black, green, and blue. The bottom half presents a recognizable running figure painted in blue. At first glance, the experience seems a bit choppy, but then the originality of the paint handling wins you over. All of the artists here are committed abstractionists, and Rooney’s curatorial efforts point out that non-pictorial art is alive and well. The show is a gift for those interested in this sort of painting.
Jonathan Goodman is a teacher and author specializing in Asian art, about which he has been writing for more than twenty years.