Gregory Amenoff makes paintings and drawings that communicate feeling and emote spirit. His perception of the outer world—the landscape, waters, and sky—provides an opening to his inner life through abstracted images. “Trace: Paintings and Drawings” at Alexandre Gallery features eleven paintings and a series of drawings that serve as the basis of the paintings. Amenoff’s new work—alive with color and light—continues to carry the influence of the Symbolist movement.
Amenoff’s compositions generally place a shape or form against an implied landscape, seascape, or vegetation. His images are full of organic color whirls and disjointed geometric shapes that burst, zigzag, and flow across the canvas. Not only does bold color unfurl and unwind, it also constricts and closes in on itself. An orange color band divides the canvas in half, creating two separate scenes. In one, light grey beams radiate from the center of a purplish-red shape, dissecting it as it floats above a forest green ground. On the other side, bold strokes of maize, purple, and white billow in graceful arches like a ship’s sail. The paint handling is deft and deliberate.
Greogry Amenoff, "Polaris," oil on canvas, 2013; Courtesy of the artist and Alexandre Gallery.
Amenoff is most known for his paintings, but “Trace” features a series of twenty-five small-scale color drawings that functioned as a first drafts for the paintings. These color pencil sketches, like the paintings they inspired, move away from a heaviness in color and material to focus on luminescence and translucence. (From the late 1980s to late 1990s, Amenoff used rabbit skin glue and distemper and applied viscous oil paint on his canvases.) The drawings made during a month-long stay in Paris in 2012 reveal his particular Symbolist influences including Redon, Moreau, and Strindberg; the images are light and free, rich and colorful, finished but not “slick.”
Straddling the line between abstract and representational, Amenoff’s paintings are neat, picturesque, beautiful, pleasant, and reassuring. His images mildly challenge our logic while giving room to imagine the possibilities without straying too far from the comfort of the real. Amenoff’s focus on the synthesis of feeling that can be elucidated through color, line, and composition makes this work like a jigsaw puzzle fitting together perfectly, just as it should.
—Lee Ann Norman
(Image on top: Gregory Amenoff, Blaze, 2013, oil on canvas; Courtesy of the artist and Alexandre Gallery.)