(An Appropriate Distance)

by Piri Halasz






White (like black, and for that matter every other hue in the spectrum) can be used & misused, creating effects gorgeous or irksome. Of the latter type, we have the blank hostility of the machine-made panels ordered up by Robert Rauschenberg, the fashionable inanities of Robert Ryman, and the cutesy artifacts of Piero Manzoni. Of the former type, we had the classic white of Anne Truitt in my last issue, and for this one, a splendid group show at Tria entitled “Winter White” (through January 21) Well after the season for incessant replaying of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” is past, whiteness continues at the back of every mind in the nation’s Snow Belt, not least in 2010 because in just three weeks we’ll be assaulted with the Winter Olympics, ice and snow furnishing the backdrop to all those skaters, skiers and tobogganists.


For this exhibition, the proprietors of Tria asked nine artists to make works inspired by the phrase “winter white.” The artists produced seven paintings, one inkjet print, and one sculpture. Howard Kalish is the sculptor, represented by a globe made of many short & asterisk-shaped ice-like acrylic rods. The inkjet print is called “Winter White (Wavehill Magnolia),” and comes from Andrew Millner. Atop a deep brown field, he has used a computer to draw a tall and elaborately leafy tree with dozens of very narrow, interwoven white lines.


Among the paintings, the two by Sue Contessa and Jenny Nelson try hard, but the five others have either more or much more to recommend them. Serena Bocchino’s white-on-white grid of dots is only in the “”more” class, but the remaining foursome are all in the category of “much more.” Alexandre Guillaume (according to the gallery’s press release) also makes photographs and videos, yet his “Adrift” is strangely reminiscent of the gesturalism of the 1950s – not a drawback, in his case, because of the vitality of his whiplash strokes and the purity of his white-on-white palette. Daniel Rosenbaum introduces a band of soft pastel colors into the billowing white snowdrift of his energetic composition entitled “Blizzard,” to very pleasant effect. Michela Martelo is (besides Millner) the other representational painter. She creates a fine feeling of space by depicting a classical-looking white sculpture of a woman on one side of her composition, plus a pair of wings that may belong either to a Renaissance angel or a Hellenistic Nike. Coming down hard on the side of the Renaissance is “Dream Life of Angels,” by Francine Tint. This for me is the finest picture in the show, a sensuous horizontal partially covered with just the right number of vigorously curving and interwoven strokes of paint – mostly white on a brown field, but with a little smatch of blue for accent.


[edited by Tria Gallery - to view the original webpage, click HERE]