Spanish artist Juan Uslé's dynamic abstract canvases in the current show at Cheim & Read are about the controlled study of color and texture within the practice of painting. With works radiating pools of cobalt blue, fields of kelly green, and hints of burnt sienna, this exhibition echoes the vibrant, steady pulse native to Uslé's homeland, while also calling to mind the geometric paintings of Joan Miró and the graphic, minimalist patterns of Frank Stella.
The visual wholeness of these mostly jewel-toned abstractions is entirely dependent upon Uslé's fragmented feeling of dislodgement, a sensation born from the duel attraction to his childhood home in northern Spain, and the gritty, almost anxiety-filled, surroundings of New York City. His work is thus defined by the unification of opposites.
Translucent veils of paint are layered against solid expanses of effervescent canvas, often creating the illusion of an intricately laced tapestry, woven from wisps of fleeting light: shimmering gray, turquoise, and pink drift across the surface as though in a lucid dream. In Soñe Que Revelabas (2010) thin, repetitive lines weave together to form thick, horizontal bands of texture. Temporarily broken up by pale strands of blue and yellow, the mostly black, Agnes Martin-like pattern appears to flutter, mimicking the brief movement of fabric caught by a soft breeze.
The marriage between conflicting sentiments–vivid, free-flowing Spanish hues juxtaposed against densely patterned barriers–is found most clearly in Uslé's smaller works. The Editor (2010-11), thick, stacked lines of deep green, sun-kissed yellow, and blood orange, layered with thin washes of black; and Inclinado (Nikritin) (2010), a sea of cerulean, slashed with two diagonal fissures in contrasting pigments of white, black, and red; shrewdly unite color and recurring pattern without forcing the two into competition.
With I'm Home (2010), Uslé appears to discover the ultimate synthesis between his past, present, and future. A rhythmic elliptical band of charcoal-gray is set against a luminous, creamy background, suggesting the interior ribs of a snail shell. While a brilliant splotch of yellow, smeared with a streak of black playfully peaks from within the cyclical formation, a strip of azure blue stretches across the bottom. Although adaptation is a necessary aspect of experiencing the world, Uslé's paintings imply that we should embrace both our past and our present, in spite of how dissimilar they may seem.
Images: Inclinado (Nikritin), 2010; Soñe Que Revelabas, 2010; I'm Home, 2010. Courtesy Cheim & Read.