Astonishingly in April...
Spring Bouquet of Minimalism

Philip Gerstein



"Minimalism  isn't about removing things you love.

It's about removing the things

 that distract you from the things you love."

~J. Becker


Astonishingly in April -- in high relief from our pandemic-induced quiescence -- I am in the 4th straight month of exhibiting... LIVE! in NYC.


A smart and well-arranged group show at Lichtundfire (on New York's Lower East Side), enticingly entitled "Minimal Force", fits together beautifully painting and sculpture (relief and free-standing), encompassing overall what I refer to as post-Minimalism. A faithful reader of Scene4 might be familiar with some of my own work in this mode/genre from earlier postings. A few images to follow endeavor to "part the curtain" on this month's exhibition, while the accompanying discourse is intended to shed the light on the history of these paintings.


Gerstein_Parting the Curtain 2 (24x36)

"Parting the Curtain (2)", 24 x 36 in. (61 x 91 cm),   Acrylic, lacquer & glass beads on
wood panel, 2020



Gerstein_Parting the Curtain (18x18)

"Parting the Curtain", 18 x 18 in. (46 x 46 cm),   Acrylic, lacquer & glass beads on
wood panel, 2020


To my trained artistic ear, the show title ("Minimal Force") posits an emphasis on "force", and in particular the force that is Color, palpably affecting our subtlest perceptions and coloring our very view of the world.


Gerstein_At Dawn We Slept (30x40)

"At Dawn We Slept"    30 x 40 in. (76 x 102 cm), oil stick, acrylic, & mixed media on
wood panel, 2017


Granted, I'm a bit of an odd bird in a discussion of Minimalism, utilizing as I do several distinct modes of abstraction -- all to stay fresh by way of switching between them. This multi-modal option, I contend, may by itself confer an unprecedented advantage -- with the entire inexhaustible treasury of 20c. experimentation now so readily available and so widely disseminated.


In its own turn, this ready abundance does carry a price. I sure understand sensory overload... the jumble of ideas and insistent piling on of colors and narratives... . In relief, Minimal art can be a balm, a peace from mondain complications, and a point of rest from fashion, advertisement, and pretensions in our art world,
in our world... .


My own journey to understanding and then utilizing Minimalism took a (deservedly) long time. It started with a certain magic I felt in the presence of Agnes Martin's paintings, and in her extraordinary concurrent writings on art. I then traveled in my appreciation from Brice Marden's calligraphic work to his experiments with pure expanses of color, and thence to greater understanding of Ellsworth Kelly's contributions to the genre. More recently my interest in Color Field painters brought me closer to the work of Kenneth Noland and Barnett Newman. To the extent that most of these artists' experiments came on the shoulders of Joseph Albers' breakthrough color course, so did my own ever-growing comprehension of the power of Color alone.


My own key to this kingdom turned out to be a new 21st century artistic material -- glass bead gel, tiny glass beads in the acrylic medium suspension, providing a self -sufficient surface of enticingly uncertain and shifting depth. To the extent that glass is made of sand -- I built the edifice of my minimal contributions on shifting sands.


Gerstein_The Morning Choir (24x36)

"The Morning Choir", 24 x 36 in. (61 x 91 cm), acrylic, glass beads & textural media on
wood panel, 2019


If I decided, a few years ago, that I had something to add to the minimal discourse, it was only because I finally found a way not to imitate an Ellsworth Kelly, other luminaries and favorites... . And the only way forward for me was what I refer to as post-Minimalism.


The insistent and now unavoidable visual familiarity with the best of past art -- by grace of the minor gods of World Wide Web -- inevitably adds an acknowledgement, which can be described as a kind of a loss of innocence, in the 19c sense of the word. It adds an extra layer. And the art created in consequence will likely come through as more complex, a knowledge that can't be un-known, perhaps a wisdom that needn't be unlearnt -- unlike Picasso staking out the position of an artist to be free like children, to throw off civilization's veneer, to go to the beginning... . Perhaps it can even be described as Minimalism with complications... . Yes, there simply has to be yet another "layer" added. It is a response to a now different and, in an optimistic view, a richer visual world -- an ARTificial world created and constantly added to by us, humans..!


Gerstein_In Clarity (24x24)_Lictundfire sm

(Installation shot, gallery Lichtundfire.)  "In Clarity",  24 x 24 in. (61 x 61 cm),  
oil stick, acrylic, lacquer, glass beads, & mixed media on wood panel, 2018-2022



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Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, Philip Gerstein began exhibiting his work in the 1980's, while 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 many publications, including The Boston Globe, ArtScope Magazine, and Art New England. For his other work in Scene4, check the Archives

©2022 Philip Gerstein
©2022 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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