"Particular Light," a group show in the Project Room of the Painting Center, features recent artwork by Xico Greenwald, Peter Allen Hoffmann, Adrian Nivola and Monica Welborn. The four artists in "Particular Light" are working in the great painting traditions, ones in which light is a crucial element. Each artist has a “particular light,” or angle of vision, that makes their work distinctive. "Particular Light" also refers to the way the works in this exhibit are composed of "particulars", specific realities (interiors, still life elements, landscape, African textile patterns, etc.), rendered with great attention. These are small works (some very small), attentive to the roles of scale, framing, and touch, and which, with their luminosity and active surfaces, call the viewer to participate in each as a particular record of intense seeing and feeling.
Xico Greenwald’s radiant still lifes are deftly executed with a palette knife, bringing forth both the physicality of the scenes depicted and the painting surface itself. One feels the chunkiness of a roll, the heft of a glass bowl and, simultaneously, the layered paint that composes them, just as one feels these objects emerge from and collapse back into the highly active painting space that is co-terminus with them. Greenwald is clearly steeped in the still life tradition, and also aware of his paintings as lively objects in their own right, their tactile, burgeoning surfaces seeming to spill out beyond their borders.
Each of Peter Allen Hoffman’s latest paintings -- abstract, or conceptual, pieces, and landscapes alike – is held within a canvas of one square foot. In some, the square has been filled with a subtly modulated wash of color, a veil, beneath which one discerns darker tones that almost suggest shapes, but not quite. Other pieces depict expansive landscapes rigorously contained within their prescribed dimensions. Each painting, regardless of genre, involves surfaces created with a delicacy of touch that invites the eye to sensuous engagement. Taken together, the works become an intriguing dialectic between the constructed space of painting and the depicted scenes, as the genres interact and distinctions blur, each work commenting on and illuminating the others.
Adrian Nivola’s paintings also delight in playing with the confines of their small scale. In one, a tiny landscape opens into sunny expanse, in which a neo-classical nude stands – or poses – in a stylized, pastoral landscape. The road that disappears into deep space in the middle of the painting leads not only outward, to the unknown, but also back in time, via a nod to the Surrealists, to Claude, Watteau, and classical sculpture. Other works draw us into interior spaces, through a doorway or a subway car window; or delineate the intimate geography of a face. In all these pieces, the carefully worked, and re-worked surfaces convey another kind of time: that required by the slow craft of making.
Monica Wellborn has written of her own work: “the feeling of moving through a space, whether through line, form, image or color, without making a direct illusion is very intriguing to me.” Her bold, colorful work records this tracking of moments of feeling and experience, ordering and re-ordering space before our eyes. Often, she employs strong black strokes to create patterns reminiscent of African and Native American weaving, which anchor these feelings states in a context of ritual and traditional sources of understanding.