Saturday, September 14, 2013

pocket geometry

Double Top, 2012, acrylic on linen, 42 x 68"

Don Christensen
Ille Arts

Don Christensen's paintings combine errant geometries, perspectival leaps of faith and a palette that ranges from creamy pastels to zippy amalgams of mulberry, citron, baby doll pink and pollen yellow. His current exhibition of paintings and painted objects, titled In The Color Pocket at Ille Arts in Amagansett is a testament to the chimerical. It also exudes a palpable joyfulness that is intoxicating.

L to R: Double Top, 2013; Blatt, 2013; Sweet Top, 2013

Christensen's canvasses evoke a sort of radiant symmetry, though they are not actually symmetrical nor do they quite mirror any of their component parts. But they feel cooly proportional, with multiple vantage points and shifting perspectives that manage to bounce the image field about like a moving target.

The large paintings (there are four large works in the installation) flirt with a version of trompe l'oeil geometry in which physical space is both dimensional and flat. The resulting abstract illusionism seems almost an accident of its creation. Foreground and background slip back and forth without one or the other exerting primacy over the pictorial space. Tilted planes morph into trapezoids; patterns flicker like teetering wedges of plastic; and color and form gently wrestle inside -- and outside -- of the realm of subject matter.

Opposing Causes, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 76"

Buoyant and weightless, Christensen's spatial disjunctions are just weird enough to challenge ordinary logic. Their dreamy theatricality and torqued perspectives tip the viewer inside the paintings, as if falling into that proverbial rabbit hole. The subjective nature of his color choices yields a multitude of associations, from cartoons to tapis to carnival arcades.

clockwise fr top: Amalfi Table, 2013; Effy-Option, 2012; Translator, 2013

And just when you think you've caught your balance, the artist tips everything on its side with paintings on table tops, step stools and other utilitarian objects. Kissing chevrons, irregular polygons, and radial targets, diamonds, pyramids and stripy, prismatic facets dance across surfaces. Set perpendicular to the walls, their tops hang face forward, an amalgam of pattern, decoration and the painted surface as object.

The tables hang cheek by jowl in Christensen's East Hampton studio, colonizing wall space like migrant gypsies. They are hard-edged and mostly hot in tone, merging flag-like motifs with ornamentation and coordinate geometric systems that swell across the image field. Like coats of arms, the imagery is at once heraldic and playful as it commingles among the history of its supporting structure.

L: Sweet Top, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 60"; R: Barky I and II, 2013, acrylic on step, 14 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 20"

The tables exist in multiple, parallel universes to the paintings, celebrating intuition and the mechanical, fictitiousness and domesticity, and folklore, tradition and a variant of body modification -- like tattoos -- as they hug the walls.

I wonder if Jasper Johns, who famously said "Take and object. Do something to it. Do something else to it," has been whispering in Christensen's ear.

L to R: Genie Vaz, 2013; Maldive, 2013; Nosey, 2013, all acrylic on board, all 14 x 13"

Just a couple more days to see the wonderful show -- Don Christensen, In the Color Pocket, at Ille Arts.