New York

Gene Davis

Fischbach Gallery

Gene Davis shows four of his largest wall-sized striped canvases at the Fischbach. The expansive possibilities of this mural scale are offset, however, by the use of excruciatingly thin half-inch vertical bands in at least two of the works shown. Their uniform opacity and chromatic congestion create, at times, some disappointingly compressed spatial situations, given the otherwise lively brightness of the paintings.

Dr. Peppercorn, whose one-inch wide stripes in an “edible” palette of magenta, cherry red, orange, and vegetable green, and Raspberry Icicle are certainly less acidic in their overall coloration than last year’s selection at the Poindexter, and there is not so much of a viewing problem here, with that discordant optical bounce, of which Davis is so fond. Instead, an irregular corrugated arrangement is set up by the combination of repeating color-coupled “groups,” which may be punctuated by one, two, or three complementaries and contrasting hues. For example, in the latter work, a lime green and aqua expanse of half-inch alignments is interrupted occasionally with a single zip of white or orange, or by paired yellow/pink and turquoise/purple streaks. A candied pink and lavender dominate the rest of the canvas, fading into duller toned bands at the side edges. Davis does make some effort toward an ordering of certain “areas” in this painting, and more obviously in Junkie’s Curtain, a soberly dark and close-valued facade. But despite this attempt to gather in one’s vision, the a rhythmic chatter results in either optical dispersal, or in an uncomfortable constriction, rather than in tonal or pictorial cohesion. Cardinal Twitter, the busiest and hottest of the four works, lacks this sense of intended “areas,” but a most interesting effect is brought about by the combination of fluorescent cadmium, scarlet, orange and yellow, which act so powerfully as to convert even the cooler blues and greens into “hot” colors. The dryness and jumpiness of past works seem to creep into this painting, nevertheless, and the other three canvases, for all their shortcomings, are more vitally appealing than this one.

Working with a format that offers infinite potential for emotional variation and visual organization, Davis, in the end, shows us a basically limited vision. All truly great styles in art, or in music, possess some inherent and crucial possibility for both expansion and contraction. Davis, on the other hand, provides only a small spectrum of experience, which shifts away from the lyrical, only to take up the sweet, and yet dissipates the discordant with too much variety.

Emily Wasserman