Building Geometry: Steven Alexander,

Warren Isensee, Chris Johanson, Christian Maychack
 Steven Alexander, Recent Paintings at David Findlay Gallery, September 5-29
These four artists (two painters, two painter/sculptors) are building geometry, whether layer by layer, line by line, or piece by piece. There's a strong sense of materiality that runs through much of the work. I'm going to keep my comments short so that I can show you a lot of installation shots.
The view coming out of the elevator, with Luna #2
We start with Steven Alexander, whose show at David Findlay Jr. Gallery on Fifth Avenue in Midtown was in an intimate, dark-walled room. I might have preferred to see these paintings in a more spacious white gallery so that their colors could expand beyond the parameters of the frame, but it turns out that the room, chapel-like in size and low light, created an opportunity to experience these paintings intimately. The way Alexander constructs his compositions, with layers of acrylic color and tinted medium, each painting emits a kind of  stained-glass luminosity. But make no mistake, these paintings are not transported on the wings of angels. They are built, block by block, color by color with chromatic logic and intuition.

Turning left into the gallery

On the foreground wall, Rosetta, 2011, acrylic on linen
Detail below
Alexander uses acrylic is a way that reads more like wax than plastic, with saturated richness and exquisite chromatic surprises

Moving into the gallery, with the appropriately titled yellow Interior, and a painting, shown  closer below, for which I don't have a title

You can see Alexander's own installation shots of the exhibition here.
Warren Isensee, New Work at Danese, September 7-October 8
Luminosity is the hallmark of Warren Isensee's work, too. Here the light is the result of hues vibrating against hues, as if tubes of neon have been bent into architectural compositions. It's paint, of course
--oil--which has been applied freehand to canvas with rigorous precision. By diminishing the thickness of the painted line as the concentric shapes become smaller, Isensee creates perspective in the work. Doorways, hallways and passageways are suggested to my eye, bathed in radiant mystery. 

Let me take you clockwise around the large main gallery, with Outer Limits, left, and Palomine

Continuing around the main gallery (the doorway leads to a small gallery with small works on paper) we come to Les Halles, which you see in larger view below

The main gallery, illuminated with a skylight, jogs into a  more conventionally illuminated section, where In Dreams, also shown below, hangs

Foreground, Sunshine Souvenier, 20 x 28 inches, with much of the power and electricity of the larger paintings
There's more behind the foreground wall, and you can see the gallery's installation shots here, which include views of the artist's small works on paper in a side gallery. There's also a beautiful e-catalog available for viewing on the website, here. (I also want to mention that having seen the gallery's physical catalogs printed by Blurb, I have revised my thinking about on-demand publishing. If Danese can do it, so can we.)
Chris Johanson, Windows at Mitchell-Innes and Nash, up through October 20
Continuing with the idea of portals, Chris Johanson's constructions, made from found wood and other materials, are windows into places where it seems that joy and poetry reside. Polor opposites to the precision of Isensee, these rather indelicately built works nonetheless offer a peek into another plane at the same time that the physical installation and a saturated palette have them radiating into the space of the gallery. The chairs have an anthropomorphic quality; perhaps there's a metaphor there, for they are reconstituted from myriad parts. I'm assuming they are not meant for functional use--no one was seated when I was there--but they are positioned in a way that invites sitting and viewing. In any case, through their material and process they dialogue actively with the work on the wall. 
View into the gallery with long view of the wheel-like sculpture--or is it a flattened cube?--on the back wall, shown in closer view below
This work, Window Painting #1, is visible at an extreme angle in the opening images
Detail below

Moving clockwise around the gallery we come to Window Painting #2, acrylic and latex paint on found wood
Closer view below

 Christian Maychack, Flats at Jeff Bailey, September 7-October 6
I'm not sure how Christian Maychack would identify himself, painter or sculptor, but like Johanson, he's doing double duty in an interesting way. Maychack's work reads as abstract painting with dimension, so the title of the show, Flats, tantalizes with ambiguity. I like how the artist takes charge of the picture plane, punching into a third dimension or creating holes so that the viewer can perforate it visually. I also like the way he fractures the grid. He's doing this with epoxy clay pressed and manipulated in a way that gives the surface a wildly energetic quality. Epoxy clay is a crafty medium if ever there was one, but he transcends it handily. (Yes, pun intended.)
Detail of Blue Through (CF 23),  epoxy clay, pigment and wood
Full view top
Panoramic view of the gallery with Floater, left; Blue Through (CF23) in back wall; and Double Flat #1, the tall sculpture at the center

Additional views of Floater, Blue Through and Double Flat #1
Detail below of Double Flat #1, with the finger impressions in the surface of the clay

Pair Apart (CF 20), 19 x 26.5 inches
The gallery's website offers good images of both the installation and individual works here. There's a lot I didn't show you. If you're intrigued by this work, click on over to the gallery's website to see more.
. . . . .

As always, If you have enjoyed this or any other post, please consider a voluntary annual donation of $20 to support this blog. Scroll down the sidebar from the top to find the Paypal link. Thank you. And big, big thanks to all the readers who have done so already!


kim matthews said...

I love the tension between the geometric and the eccentric/handmade, nicely illustrated by the Maychack piece. Will be on the lookout for more. Thanks for posting these!


Love it.
I think if I stare at the Isensee piece long enough I just might hypnotize myself.

annell4 said...

Beautiful work! Thanks so much for the post!

Gudrun Mertes-Frady said...

Many years ago, I found a small slip of paper with just one line printed on it:

Best Witchcraft Is Geometry.

These four words resonated strongly with me, so much so that I kept them on my desk over these many years. It’s the title of a poem by Emily Dickinson:

Best Witchcraft is Geometry
To the magician’s mind—
His ordinary acts are feats
To thinking of mankind.

—Emily Dickinson, 1158, ca. 1870

Writing about Dickinson, Joyce Carol Oates comments on this poem: “The ‘witchcraft’ of art is (mere) geometry to the practitioner: by which is meant that it is orderly, natural, obedient to its own rules of logic; an ordinary event. What constitutes the feat is the relative ignorance of others

From an interview Julie Karabenick of GEOFORM did with me a few years back

Nancy Natale said...

Wonderful work! I'm so sorry I missed all but the Maychack show, but at least I got to see that. The work was unexpected and very intriguing.Thanks for posting, Joanne.

I have some other geometric work I saw in NY last week that I'm going to post too - that is if I can drag myself away from following politics on TV.

Tamar said...

Wonderful array of work. Thanks for the close-ups of the Maychack pieces--I wish that I had made it over to the show. And I love the chromatic charge that Alexander generates along the edges of his paintings!