On the Origin of a Species

In last month's feature, I introduced a different species of my painting – a dense, color-soaked, highly textural cycle of work ("And Now for Something Completely Different"). This variety of abstraction, as is generally acknowledged, was given permission to exist by the Action Painting precedent within the American Abstract Expressionist movement. By now, one needs no further permission to 'stand on the shoulders' of those giants and to expand further upon their experimentation.


Personally, I came to abstraction in what I imagine is the best (logical & harmonious) way possible: by abstracting things/objects in my figural and especially my landscape painting attempts. After years of doubts and experiments, I gave myself full permission to paint in several modes ("styles") of abstraction at the same time. In this I am, increasingly, far from alone. More artists are utilizing this 'multi-modal' option, no matter how heavily discouraged it has been among the galleries and art museums and by generations of art critics. In this new millennium of universal internet availability, such strictures no longer make creative sense, even when they still tend to make mercantile sense. Clearly, it's way easier to be able to pigeon-hole an artist in order to promote and sell their work. Will then the integrity to one's creative drive win out in the end, choosing a longer but perhaps a more authentic path? In a Post-Newtonian truism, the certainty of a straight line is no longer the shortest distance between two points.


The painting I want you to consider here, features nary a straight line, and is barely contained by the strict rectangle that is its wood panel support.



 "Find Your Passion", 30 x 40 in. (76 x 102 cm.),
Oil stick, acrylic, and mixed media on wood panel, 2016


Layers of paint and translucent medium add up to high texture, while deliberately matte finish scatters the light, enhancing further the painting's considerable physical presence (as seen in a detail of its upper left corner).


"Find Your Passion", Detail 1


I recall it took some courage to stop and to decide this painting was finished. Here I was assisted by precedent. Some time during the many months of working on this painting, I saw an exhibition of late period works of Jules Olitski (an exceptionally gifted 2nd generation Abstract Expressionist painter), at a South End Boston gallery fresh from a New York show. Their compositional arrangement acknowledged the picture rectangle prominently amidst the heavy textures, and their palette was shocking, almost a full step brighter than the currently prevailing mode. When I finally considered my nearly finished painting, I noticed that its upper right corner (in Detail 2 below) could almost pass for one of those late Olitskis!.. and thus given permission by the late master himself, I proceeded to retain this corner and complete this long-in-the-making, patient and passionate work… .



"Find Your Passion", Detail 2

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Philip Gerstein | Scene4 Magazine | @David Lee Black-2019

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Born and raised in Moscow, USSR, Philip Gerstein began exhibiting his work in the 1980's with the Boston Visual Artists Union, after pursuing a PhD in Art History at Harvard University.  He studied painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Japanese calligraphy with Toshu Ogawa. Gerstein exhibits in NYC, Provincetown MA, and extensively in the Boston area, as well as organizing and curating painting and photography shows. His work has been reviewed, reproduced and praised in numerous publications, including The Boston Globe, ArtScope Magazine, and Art New England, and he is the author of the prize-winning essay, "Art of Color: Beauty in art comes in so many forms; art of color is a special case of it." International Painting Annual 4. 1st. Cincinnati: Manifest Press, 2014.
More at http://www.PhilipGerstein.com
For his other work in Scene4, check the Archives

©2021 Philip Gerstein
©2021 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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