The New Abstractionists – Walter Wickiser Gallery

The four abstractionists in this sharp show offer a vision of art that is still alive and kicking, despite the fact that its zenith may have been attained more than two generations ago. In the era of the postmodern, a certain eclecticism prevails: artists may appropriate any style available, and can be considered successful if they have mastered the dictates and effects of whatever convention they may have chosen to hold up to the public. It is particularly interesting to see work that continues within the domain of abstraction. It's structures and nuances are elaborated in ways that push the language of nonobjective art forward, according to contemporary lights. As a result, this group exhibition points out the strength of a style that continues to yield to the determined painters currently on exhibition, who reveal gestures taken in new directions.

Ron Clark's current sequence of paintings is called “Impending Presence," an evocative title for a body of work that is resolutely abstract. His paintings present an infused glow of color, red in particular, that seeps into the gaze and imagination of the viewer. Clark, who says in an artist statement that the paintings are “to be viewed and apprehended in both microcosm…and in macrocosm," pursues new directions in abstract works. Carefully building layer upon layer, Clark invents a new topography, in which the valleys and ridges of the painting refer to the history of its making. This would be the view from close up; from a distance, there is the seeming existence of expanding galaxies. The two outlooks are nonetheless related to each other, as Clark asserts. His atmospheric affects capture the viewer, who revels in the textures and grandeur of his compositions.

The complex array of marks and materials by Peter Hoss creates a quickening field of gestural effects. Included within his armamentarium are charcoal, gouache, chalk, and graphite, which the artist lavishes on the surface of each work on paper. Sometimes the image suggests the human figure, and sometimes it relates to landscape. But Hoss primarily presents visual structures that resonate as abstractions as much as studies taken from the real world. His constructions—the landscapes in particular—often depend upon thick black lines, which raise to view Hoss’s acute sense of organization as he tackles something recognizable to the eye. Hoss plays with figuration and abstraction, ultimately favoring the latter for its ability to communicate without specifying its origins. His emphasis is spiritual as much as it is visual.

James Jenkins’s vividly colored collages are intense with energetic forms, which builds bases that feel as though they are spiritual searches for authenticity. Consisting of torques and ellipses filled in with radiant hues, these pieces celebrate the joys of pure abstraction. Jenkins has constructed a personal language of forms that crashed into and buffet each other with ferocious energies; his audience senses audacity and fearlessness as well as unusual technical skill. The results of the artist’s exploration show us that abstraction can convey intricacy for its own sake; his luminous colors, often boundaried black, communicate a love for raw tints and joyous feeling. The sweeping motions of the shapes, which include vortices and inflated arcs, surround the viewer with Jenkins’s characteristic of assurance.

Some of the imagery found in Michael Pinchera's art reminds me of the sea forms of the abstract expressionist William Baziotes—Pinchera also uses the suggestiveness of organic shapes to communicate a dreamlike reverie. With titles like Birth and Healing Journey, the artist conveys an essentially spiritual approach to art. His luminous acrylics on board give the paintings a suffused below that permeates the composition; pinks and oranges, reds and greens connect and build intuitive shapes that seem nearly to catch fire because of the artist’s boldness in presenting his sensibility. Color is important to all four artists in the show, but it is particularly evident in Pinchera's case. Instead of line ordering his imagery, a boundless sense of form takes over and builds structures of its own. The brilliant hues he employs tells us that the abstract approach needn’t be limited to a particular palette. In fact, Pinchera does quite effectively what his colleagues do as well: he emphasizes imagination in its pure expressivity, compelling his audience to share in both his mind and his art.

– Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is a writer based in New York City. He has written for such publications as art in America, sculpture, and arch critical. He is currently teaching at Pratt Institute and Parsons school of design.