New York

Jack Bush

Emmerich Gallery

Jack Bush’s show at the Emmerich Gallery features large-format rectangles which are divided into triangular wedges or diagonal, horizontal and vertical segments. These areas contain parallel bars in a variety of widths and colors. Although he uses a broad array of bright, intense chroma stained into the raw canvas, neutral olives, greys and browns are also favored. In Soft Left, Bush employs this mixed scheme, with the two side sectors striped in tertiary greens, ochres, rusts, and pink. Though these flanking areas are the stronger forms structurally, their tones fall away to reveal a center wedge of brilliant hot and cool colors—mango orange, magenta, red, chartreuse, and turquoise.

Often, one or two bars will catch the major accent, as in Blue Slant, Shower, or V-Cut-2, where the widest orange “zip” in the center triangle almost bounces out in front of the other hues. But usually, saturation is so even that any contrasting effects are dulled by the uniformity of application and value. Likewise, there seems to be a sort of indiscriminate scattering of the colors. There is very little rhythm or pattern to their distribution within one canvas, and if chromatic juxtapositions are optically vibrant, one feels that this is more fortuitous than specifically designed.

Scale itself does not necessarily fortify Bush’s structural or chromatic concepts. Orange Left, the largest horizontal canvas in the show, is composed of four rather than the usual three separate areas. It does not suffer by its greater size, but neither does it generate more scintillating relationships than smaller works. Although some of the individual combinations are deliciously pleasing—such as a rich turquoise bordering on magenta, or a deep candy rose next to cerise—these multi-hued bars, tilted and played against each other, just don’t enliven the paintings. There is a stiffness in their positioning, which, along with the meandering quality of the color arrangements, results in a kind of lackluster conventionality after the initial impact of so many colors running this way and that.

As far as color goes, it is clear that Bush has an all-encompassing sensibility and taste, potentially more exciting than his use of form. Perhaps if his structural approach were tightened up into a more unique venture, and the focus shifted to an ordering of his broad color instincts, the paintings would be both esthetically coherent and visually satisfying to a larger extent than they are now.

Emily Wasserman