PIERRE OBANDO Like Newby David Rhodes
Thierry Goldberg Gallery | April 26 – May 17, 2015
This is Pierre Obando’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. The title of his exhibition is taken from Roy Lichtenstein’s painting “Like New,” which is an atypical work for Lichtenstein and a telling choice for Obando. The painting is technically consonant with Lichtenstein’s usual cool mechanical approach, but its depiction of two screen panels—one with a hole, one with that hole repaired—is subtle and invites a lengthier more contemplative viewing than is expected with such an obviously vernacular and pop emphasis. This relationship, between a mechanical exigency and an expressive result, is key to understanding the 18 paintings presented here.
Obando uses stencils that leave a Ben-Day like field that in a very distant way recalls the Lichtenstein painting as well as other layering techniques whose traces remain evident. The complex surfaces that result exploit incidents that are ostensibly products of a process—or which could even be described as accidents—but function quite differently as, what Wölfflin called, malerisch. This term was initially used by Wölfflin to describe characteristics of Baroque painting, but the term was later adopted by Clement Greenberg to describe the “painterliness” of Abstract Expressionism. In Greenberg’s words, “loose, rapid handling, or the look of it; masses that blotted and fused instead of shapes that stayed distinct; large and conspicuous rhythms; broken color, uneven saturations, or densities of paint.” An important painter for Greenberg, Jules Olitski, said that he wanted to “get himself out of the way” and to this end he used many devices between himself and the process of painting.
The paintings Olitski made with a mitt-like glove in the late 1980s are of particular interest to Obando. Inspired by Spanish Baroque painting, Olitski used a glove to move thick iridescent acrylic paint around that he later spray-painted with a darker toned color. Obando is, extraordinarily, connecting these tendencies through paintings that range between precedents as diverse as Baroque painting and Pop Art—Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol—to Sigmar Polke and Christopher Wool.
Paintings are installed individually, in pairs and in groups of three. The positioning of the works allows comparison of repetition and difference as it exists either between images as iterations from the same series, or as contrasts between paintings of saturated color or of a black and gray chromatic range. Take “Factum IV” (2015) and “Factum III” (2015); both paintings are the same size (68 x 54 inches) and share a color scheme, but the layering technique subtly varies from one work to the other. The appearance of striations and other marks are increasingly revealed by prolonged looking. A series of short horizontal pale shapes that repeat vertically through the center of each painting are more resistant to vision in “Factum III.” The corrugated and blotted factures that sustain overlaps and outlines whilst variegated differently seem to share the same mode of making and thereby imply the impossibility of a definitive or last image for this series. They put me in mind of the monumental wood cuts by the Swiss artist Franz Gertsch produced after photographs of people and landscape, where the directness of an image is undermined in favor of the intermediary process of its construction, manifesting a state of becoming or sublimity—as much disappearance as appearance.
“Migrane 007” (2015), “Unseen 001” (2015), and “Migrane 001” (2015) seen together relay a sequence that can be read as a triptych, though they are clearly standalone works otherwise. “Migraine 007,” with its offset screen of dots and four mono-printed black off-vertical lines, never settles into a composition; rather it appears to hover contingently. The same violet/grey striping of “Migraine 007” persists in “Unseen 001,” however this time there are traces of a small irregular diamond pattern toward either vertical edge. The empty central area of the painting suggests something unseen as the title implies. In “Migraine 001” the mono printed lines return, in a different placement and somewhat degraded. All of which reinforces a temporal passage or set of options, possibly open-ended.
On the basis of this exhibition Obando can be expected to produce more of this very focused and particular kind of painting—one that reclaims rather than eschews previous painting—as well as instilling a personal emotion completely at odds with the notion of a cool recycling of past styles or process endemic to some recent abstract painting. This emotion comes through equally in the contemplative, measured register of the evenly toned paintings—think Agnes Martin—as well as in the discordant hues of the chromatically saturated, intense paintings.