“Residual Tilt,” the exhibition of Paul Evans’ small oil paintings on panel currently on view at One Mile Gallery, 475 Abeel St., references the pinball machine in gallery owner Janet Hicks’ kitchen. “Pinball is an enclosed game with a rectangular structure and a ball, and every game is different,” said Evans, who lives in Los Angeles and got inspired by the photos of the machine Hicks had emailed him after visiting him on the West Coast. (The two had met years ago while working at sister companies in New York City, where Evans earned his BFA at the School of Visual Arts.) Just as a player can “cheat a little bit” by tilting the machine, Evans said the image of a log that appears in many of his paintings is often slightly tilted, the exact angle dependent on the other elements in the painting, but in each case effecting a precarious balance.
In a couple of paintings, two or three logs, each bearing a single truncated branch, like a tilted shark’s fin, giving the pedestrian form a directional heft, rest on tilted horizontal straight lines intersecting a center vertical line. (In one painting, the motif of the intersecting lines is shifted slightly to resemble an old-fashioned TV antenna.) Balancing them out on the lines are various sized circles and, in one case, eye-shaped forms with the scalloped edges of clouds. It’s a kind of sign language mixing, like a rich hieroglyphics — the representational and the abstract.
The crisp but delicate geometries, placement of delicately hued logs, tear drops, clouds, stars, leaves, and circles on dark, subdued, moodily atmosphere fields, keyed to dawn, twilight or dusk, recall the late work of Kandinsky. The early Russian modernist’s work referenced musical scores, mathematical formulas and Constructivist theories suggesting, like Evans’ work, a hidden, coded language.
Evans’ paintings also exhibit the wit, barebones composition, and restrained richness of color and texture of Kandinsky’s contemporary Paul Klee.
Indeed, “I’m interested in symbols and mixing the abstract and representational,” Evans said. “I’m vacillating between nature and something a little more out there. Klee did some pieces using arrows, and I’m interested in the idea of direction.” The matter-of-fact, deceptively simple mien of his work in part derives from a limited repertoire of images. Separated from its traditional context, the truncated log becomes what Evans describes as “a neutral object,” a free-floating symbol loaded with ambiguity. “People react in different ways to the fact they’re not sure entirely what’s happening to the object — if it’s passive or active, how it’s operating, if it’s being hurt or helped,” he said. Such ambiguity “opens up the narrative even more.”
Through the simplest of means, the images transmute from objects into spatial fields, from the tiniest microbe to twin stars, connected by a light bulb-shaped dotted line that suggests a force field, to cite several examples. A series featuring geometric thought balloons, mingling with small clouds and stamped with a series of small eyes, conflates physical space with psychological pondering. Landscape is evoked in a few works by a horizon line or swirl of clouds — a reference Evans, formerly a native New Yorker, says relates to his experience driving a car in LA, in which “you think more about the sky and how it changes.” The sense that his paintings posit a set of variables which are never quite resolved underlines the helplessness of us all in a world overtaken by technology, climate change and the invasion and corruption of nature by man-made synthetics. Evans, who shows his work in LA and other U.S. cities, noted that “when you become cognizant of things, you’re helpless. In daily life, we’re either victim or perpetuator” — a predicament that has its humorous side.
A couple miles away, at The Storefront Gallery, at 93 Broadway, painter, curator and former gallery owner Chris Gonyea is exhibiting his black-and-white soot drawings of swirling tree branches, in an eight-month long residency he’s entitled “Seasonal Analogies.” The drawings are made by holding a piece of paper above a flame; in a reductive process, Gonyea then painstakingly removes areas of the blackened soot surface with a pencil eraser to create negative spaces of sky that articulate the shapes of twining branches and silhouetted evergreens, revealing nuanced tones that evoke fog, mist, a gradual revealing of the light out of darkness. He’ll be following up next month with a different set of images — including possibly his large, trippy color paintings of trees — and will be finishing up the residency in October.
The ARTBAR Gallery, located at 674 Broadway in Midtown, is featuring the large representational paintings of Pablo Shine and the photographs and abstract paintings of Dina Alcalay Pearlman in an exhibition entitled “Sacred.” Shine, a native of Puerto Rico who lives in Kingston — he is also a percussionist and teaches art at SUNY Ulster — paints lively, majestic images of elephants, posed frontally and entirely filling the canvas, in shimmering, mother-of-pearl colors, a kind of spiritual portrait; the work specifically references the symbolism of elephants in the Lucumi/Santeria religion, which was brought to Puerto Rico from Africa (the elephant represents the deity Obatala, he noted). The solo dancing figure in “Black Majesty” is inspired by Puerto Rican poet Luis Pales Matos, while the brightly colored masked dancers in Shine’s other works refer to the tricksters of carnival that takes place in Loiza, on the northeast coast of the island. Shine’s specific interest in the island’s African traditions stems from an exploration of his roots.
Pearlman’s monumental black-and-white photographs of people clutching and obscured by various objects, ranging from roots to a giant burdock leaf to masks (two of these are of Shine; in one you mainly see his large smoky cigar as he pulls back from the mask, an image that suggests an instance of spontaneous combustion), suggest, in their symmetry and somber illumination, a kind of ritualism. Consisting of work dating from 20 years ago up to the present, the digital prints have the rich tones, depth and luminosity of film, an effect Pearlman (who was a dedicated darkroom photographer before finally making the switch) achieves by treating the surface with encaustic.
The series came about somewhat serendipitously: to add interest to a portrait, she suggested her subjects hold an object of their choosing. The idea “took off,” said Pearlman, who also teaches at SUNY Ulster and has shown her work locally, in New York City, and elsewhere. “People became much more imaginative about posing when they have something to pose with. It’s almost a dialogue. I give them my vision, then they would try different things,” she said. First and foremost, however, the photographs express Pearlman’s love of form — she cites Edward Weston, famous for his gleaming pepper-like nudes, as an influence — and it’s this formal discipline, as much as the mysterious juxtaposition of person with object, that gives the photographs their force.
Pearlman said her abstract paintings came out of photography — though the connection isn’t obvious, given their splotches, washes and strokes of warm, textured color. “I started shooting abstractly, got into print making and mixed media, and ended up with encaustic,” she said.
While Shine’s and Pearlman’s work “has obvious contrasts in style, there is a ‘simpatico’ that we find in each other’s work,” Pearlman writes. “The monochromatic portraits of unflinching candor, mixed with the brightly colored dancers and masks seem to compliment each other. Additionally, we both utilize the world-class artist materials made in Kingston’s R&F Paints, pigments that bring out the flavors of the Caribbean, an inspiration for both of us.”
All three shows are up until the end of the month.