MINUS SPACE | NOVEMBER 5 – DECEMBER 17, 2011
The earliest paintings that I have seen by Gabriele Evertz deal primarily with gestural forms. But saying they are “gestural” does not automatically imply that they possess expressionist content. Rather, for Evertz, the gesture holds a different status, being less about the signifier of the interior than a clear consciousness as to how the preceding strokes contribute to the final result. Her rational approach to painting offers an interesting and important insight as to how abstract paintings are made. We might call them visual, which is a foregone conclusion. Even so, Evertz works in a way that is both conscious and deliberate, informed and evocative, so as to move easily from the gesture to the hardedge, to the color coordinates that envision the possibility of another network in the creation of pictorial space.
For several years, Evertz has been committed to a hardedge, optical approach to painting. She resides within the context of painters at Hunter College that include such colossi as Robert Swain and Sanford Wurmfeld, and a legacy of others, including Ray Parker, Ad Reinhardt, and Doug Ohlson.
In all cases, these painters are primarily concerned with color—less in the sense of “Color Field” painting than in operating from Josef Albers’s point of departure, where color is arguably performed in painting as a “fundamental truth.” Evertz has intuitively understood this, and in the process, has managed to produce an extensive range of paintings in which color becomes the content. This further suggests that by making color the focus of the work, she allows it to function rhythmically across the picture plane in a way that is quite different from Op Art, in which color clashed in such a way as to suggest an illusion in front of the painting.
Whereas painters of the Baroque period were interested in rendering the illusionistic depth of field, the Op artists were more interested in surface illusion; I would suggest that Evertz is interested in another type of illusion altogether. Her emphasis is on the rhythm of the color as it interacts with neutral gray tones so as to produce an equally immediate, though somewhat classical, presentation of form. This suggests that the rhythm—inferring time—on the picture plane actually becomes static in that the gray tonalities mix with the color and thereby produce an optical sensation of hovering or suspension.
In seeing her recent exhibition of paintings—which focus primarily on gray in relation to colored stripes, placed vertically on the picture plane—I was taken by the neutral tonality performed in relation to her chosen palette and how it guides our optical sense of color to a steadfast moment of perception within the aegis of the picture plane.
At Minus Space, this symphony of color is played out with masterful restraint. In “Six Grays + RYB” (2006)—a relatively large horizontal painting—the variation of gray tones is painted in repetitive sequences within three color units, moving from red to yellow to blue. What may startle the senses is the manner in which this work hovers and vibrates as we stare into it. (By staring into, I refer to the phenomenon by which depth is perceived by way of the decrease of tonal grays in each segment within the various color units.) But, in fact, this is not the case. Instead we are experiencing the vibration of color on the surface as a static entity.
Much the same could be said about “Grays Plus Orange” (2010), a smaller painting in the back room, in which the square format operates differently. Here the variation of gray tones seems to augment the illuminating potential of the two thin vertical stripes at either end of the canvas. In doing so, another kind of vibration is established. In either case, it is through the tonal variations of gray that color achieves an augmented luminosity or a vibratory sensation, thus implying that the neutral effects impact our sensory vision in a way that increases our sensitivity to color and the way color moves in relation to the surface space.
ContributorRobert C. Morgan
Robert C. Morgan is a writer, international art critic, curator, poet, lecturer, and artist. His most recent book is Clement Greenberg: Late Writings (2003). He holds both an MFA in Sculpture and a Ph.D. in Art History. He is currently Adjunct Professor of Fine Art at Pratt Institute.