Critics’ Picks

Gary Stephan, Untitled, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 56 1/4 x 70".

Gary Stephan, Untitled, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 56 1/4 x 70".


Gary Stephan

"T" Space
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July 20–August 24, 2013

The seven paintings and forty-five small-scale works on paper in Gary Stephan’s solo exhibition achieve a precise balance with the site, “T” Space, a tall rectangular structure situated within a woodland and designed by Steven Holl. The artworks have been hung to engage the dynamics of the architecture, particularly its asymmetrical windows, which articulate the length and shape of building. Take the mezzanine level of the interior: Two paintings on adjacent walls flank a window situated horizontally and close to the floor, above them is a skylight, a bright rectangle of firmament and foliage that seems a work in its own right. Nearby, works on paper are installed in two parallel rows of increasing and decreasing size on walls opposite each other, effectively accentuating the corridor-like section of the building.

Each painting is tactile and spatially illusive, often including a shape that functions as a picture within a picture, like a window or mirror, which further links the paintings to the built environment. Untitled, 2013, is a series of blue overlapping horizontal and vertical bands that form a screen across the painting through which several black lines appear to slip diagonally. Opacity is refracted by the weave of paint—like water catching reflected light under its surface. A curved shape with a flat right edge sits centrally, acting as a visual portal and an additional physical layer on the painting’s surface. Stephan’s paintings both evoke the things of the world and estrange their relationships, undermining assumptions about the order of things and making for a surreal abstraction of the familiar using painting’s formal means.