abstract painterliness


Like bagels and cream cheese, painterly abstraction is associated in the popular imagination with New York City despite its roots in Old Europe. The idiom’s practitioners are everywhere on earth these days, but the most authentic stuff is still made in our five boroughs. Russell Roberts, Cynthia Hartling and Wallace Whitney are three mid-career painters (based, respectively, in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx) who engage with the problems and pleasures of painterly abstraction. Among the adjectives sometimes applied to this kind of work is “juicy,” and the efforts of these artists exist along a spectrum of juiciness: Roberts apparently juicy but not really, Hartling moderately so, and Whitney having juiciness to spare. Juiciness implies several distinct components, often present in varying proportions. These include a vigorous, painterly touch, a broad chromatic range that includes a healthy admixture of saturated colors, and a surface that might seem a little ragged to eyes accustomed to the homogenizing computer screen. Juicy painting is open to accidental effects and chance alignments. It is not necessarily emotionally authentic, but it conveys the painter’s enjoyment of the act of mark-making. Joan Snyder’s paintings are juicy, notwithstanding an undercurrent of skepticism regarding the emotional efficacy of pure painting; Jonathan Lasker’s paintings, despite their exaggeratedly tactile surfaces and frequently loud colors, are not. Based closely on preparatory sketches, Lasker’s paintings are pointedly unspontaneous, and spontaneity (or its doppelganger, brushiness) is the juiciest attribute of all.

more from Stephen Maine at artcritical here.