Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Boston Globe Review of Material Abstraction

Carter Potter, Negative 6 (Landscape), 2002, 70mm polyester film on stretcher, 28" x 28"
They Define, or Refine, 'Paint'

There’s no paint involved in Carter Potter’s clever “Negative 6 (Landscape),’’ the first piece inside the front door of Howard Yezerski Gallery, and the keynote of the gallery’s summer group show, “Material Abstraction.’’ Potter has mounted strips of 70mm film across a wooden frame — the kind you would stretch a canvas over. Even though this isn’t a painting, it’s about painting much more than it’s about photography.

Many of the works in “Material Abstraction’’ are made with no paint at all, but the show prods at the edges of the definition of painting. That’s become a theme this summer: Check out “The Space in Between’’ at Steven Zevitas Gallery and “Steve Locke: you don’t deserve me’’ just across Thayer Street.

Potter’s 10 strips of shiny, translucent negatives feature shots of water meeting land, with frothy trees along the shore. The horizon line is a diagonal, and becomes more vertical with each frame. The repeating image is almost incidental; it serves the needs of a larger abstraction. Stand back, and see a pattern in which those horizon lines twist downward over the bands of the strips like so many satin ribbons.

The most traditional painter in the exhibit is Ulrich Wellmann, who delights in the materiality of paint. He pushes it around in swirls that have delicate vitality and resemble the breath and beating heart of a chick rustling the down of its breast. For “Painting (Yellow-green/Whitegreen)’’ Wellmann applies that stroke to plexiglass, in a lather of tart pale green that doesn’t reach the edges of the picture plane. The plexiglass surface then becomes a kind of container for the effervescent energy of Wellmann’s paintings — except that the paint roils over the surface.

Bob Oppenheim sews onto his mostly blue-painted canvases, and adds pinhead-size dots with which he anchors meandering threads to this canvas. And Brian Zink makes geometrical patterns with colored plexiglass in high-gloss works that bounce light toward you even as they shift into the illusion of deep space. All these artists revel in the texture and sheen of the materials they work with. That’s what releases them into the possibilities of abstraction.

- Cate McQuaid
Globe Correspondent
August 1, 2012