Critics’ Picks

Red Sea (Parting IV), 2006.

New York

Barnaby Furnas

Marianne Boesky Gallery
509 West 24th Street
September 16–October 21, 2006

For this exhibition, which inaugurates Marianne Boesky’s new gallery, Barnaby Furnas literalizes the spiritual fervor that links some of his favorite subjects—battles, rock concerts, and love. His exploration of grand narratives continues here and is played out among an extensive selection of medium-size paintings depicting, among others, the abolitionist John Brown and Jesus, who is seen alive, at the moment of execution, and after the Resurrection. The spiritual mood reaches its apotheosis in the main gallery, where three monumental canvases depicting the parting of the Red Sea are sublime. Hung on contiguous walls, they suggest a filmic sequence, the holy subject matter expressed literally and metaphorically through sacrificial coloring worthy of Hermann Nitsch. Furnas pours paint across a canvas laid out on an angle, composing a wave of bright hues that unfolds in hundreds of declinations, flowing like a river of blood. The central painting, which at fourteen by thirty feet is also the largest, is astounding not simply for its size: The complex shadings are rich with emotion; standing before it is a visceral experience. These three canvases may mark a spiritual turn, but at the same time they are also simply beautiful demonstrations of how abstraction allows for a glimmer of emotional abandon.