March 2024

Long Live the King!... of Prussia
Philip Gerstein




“Blue has no dimensions.

It is beyond dimensions.”

~ Yves Klein, artist


I simply LOVE exhibiting at The Painting Center in New York! I think their Project Room is perfectly suited to showing abstract work. It eschews the distractions of the main exhibition space, concentrating the power, the vibratory affect of the paintings. This is especially relevant to my work — to my paintings' primary reliance on color and texture for their emotive impact. The off-white walls allow for a meditative space, and for a calm or kinetic composition to reverberate, while a spectator finds their own viewing distance and quiet understanding, thus becoming a participant.


  At The Painting Center vernissage (you can tell the artist by his stripes)


This past February saw my second exhibition at The Painting Center, following the 2017 solo show, at the beginning of my post-Minimal series. The current show, entitled:


brims with the confidence of a well-developed series. It features strong assertive colors, and clear organized compositions which nevertheless preserve the immediacy and surprise of intuitively arrived at results. The above-referred to intervals are somewhat irregular throughout -- an evidence of the artist's hand -- which along with varied textures and surface treatments, tends to keep each work singularly unique and fresh. That freshness is, hopefully, what will allow a painting to stand the test of time.


  The Painting Center installation (partial view).


I encourage you to peruse the gallery's excellent Press Release, published in last month's (February) Scene4 feature, here, for insights into the major themes of this exhibition as a whole and the impact it is likely to effect in the viewer. I would like to highlight one specific medium-size painting, lest it gets lost among its larger more actively outgoing neighbors. Please welcome... perhaps with a drumroll and fanfares!.. the "King of Prussia". 


  "King of Prussia",  20 x 30 in., (51 x 76 cm),

  Acrylic & mixed media on wood panel, 2021


The distinct brushed and raised texture within the blue shape/field, contrasts smartly with the smooth right side of this painting. The two areas also differ in color, in brightness, in fullness vs quietude. (Looked at from the right side, the "King" is naked!) All of this variance is perceived simultaneously and creates a certain added richness for the eye to enjoy. Perhaps you can see in this example why I refer to such paintings as


After this painting was finished, it fairly quickly found its TITLE. To me, titling the artwork is a separate process, requiring its own procedure and "rules". It needs to be poetic, without tying down the viewer's imagination with maudlin specificity. A welcome multiplicity of interpretations is one of the advantages of Abstraction -- and I try to expand it further with just the right concept or reference and occasionally a little bit of wordplay.


In this case, the larger blue shape has a very evocative to me right boundary... that curve reminded me vividly of the prow of a ship. It brought to mind those proud stately vessels of the times past, perhaps ca. 1910, those ships of state (emerging to us out of the mists of time and sepia colored postcards of the era) -- exactly the kind that would bear the names like King of Prussia. Can you see what I mean?.. At the same time, you might be very astute to note that the blue color used here -- a very traditional historic blue -- is known as Prussian Blue... . Oh Yes, I decided in a flash of recognition and insight -- this title would do just fine -- and then some!..


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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. For his paintings – extensively reviewed and widely collected see For his other work in Scene4, check the Archives

©2024 Philip Gerstein
©2024 Publication Scene4 Magazine




March 2024

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