N3 Project Space
Four quickly executed watercolors begin Joel Longenecker’s exhibition at N3 Project Space. Each relies on a lattice-work of blue, green, and earth tone brush strokes for structure. The resulting grid is wide open with plenty of gray ground showing through. The marks themselves are aggressive. They cut swiftly, threatening to break free of the grid holding them. The spontaneity of these small watercolors highlights Longenecker’s gestural style of painting and shows the artist at his best: intense and impatient.
Unfortunately, Longenecker abandons this approach in his oils, six of which are on display in the show. In them, he slows his hand dramatically. Although he carries the grid structure over from the watercolors, Longenecker abandons the slashing brushwork. Rather than allowing his sweeping strokes to define the painting’s structure, he imposes a grid on his oils so that red marks are contained within one square, grays in another.
In containing his brushwork, Longenecker clips his own wings and allows his paintings to become static. His unrelenting palette of earth tones, grays, reds, and oranges settles too easily into this balance, adding to a monotony that spells death for gestural abstraction. This is perhaps most evident in "Just Looking," the largest painting in the show, the scale and pattern of which suggest nothing more than a large quilt.
One oil painting in the show escapes this fate. In "Rough Line," Longenecker allows his brushwork to explode the underlying grid and recapture some of the thrill of his watercolors. A cascade of cadmium red begins in the upper left-hand corner and falls to center, changing value and hue to an ochre/cadmium yellow and exiting bottom center. This open expanse of paint balances handsomely the green-framed rectangle of gray-blue that sits comfortably in the painting’s upper right. Longenecker’s return to relational painting outside the grid is a breath of fresh air, both welcome and successful.
Emotive, gestural abstraction of the sort for which Longenecker clearly strives, trades on the immediacy of its content conveyed through spontaneous paint handling. The delicacy and freedom of movement necessary to such painting cannot withstand the heavy-handed obstacle of the grid Longenecker places in its way. Longenecker’s watercolors reveal his gifts as a painter. Perhaps he could achieve the same in oils if he would give himself the opportunity.
ContributorBenjamin La Rocco
Wallace Berman: Off the GridBy Ann McCoy
OCT 2021 | ArtSeen
Descending into the cellar at TOTAH feels like entering a sanctum sanctorum, the holy of holies. The leitmotif of this exhibition could be the theme of intimacy, images feeling like handheld windows into the artists psyche.
Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented, 19181939By Charlotte Kent
MARCH 2021 | ArtSeen
The goal of MoMAs Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented, 19181939 is to showcase the ways that artists participated in spreading radical new ideas made urgent by World War I and the 1917 Russian Revolution. The exhibition largely focuses on activity in what would become the Soviet Bloc, as artists enthusiastically adopted new print and distribution technologies, and embraced a geometric, abstract aesthetic that dramatized their rejection of the decadent, bourgeois parlor.
Ron Gorchov: Watercolors 19681980By Andrew Paul Woolbright
NOV 2022 | ArtSeen
The exhibition provides the unique experience to see where Gorchov expands the saddle into more of a field, plays at the boundaries, attempts to relate it more directly to the edge of the paper through trial and error, before finally settling on his aesthetic.
The Artist and the PoetBy Edouard Kopp
FEB 2023 | Critics Page
Throughout his life, Robert Motherwell had a deep passion for poetry, which informed his aesthetic and nourished his practice as an artist.