New York

Peter Gourfain

Bykert Gallery

Still another artist concerned with an alternative to Abstract Expressionism and post-painterly abstraction, Peter Gourfain, has evolved an interesting solution to the problem of structuring an essentially shapeless field. It is neither as radical, minimal nor as original as Miss Johanson’s but it is singular enough.

Gourfain, whose exhibition at the Bykert Gallery was his first (he is 32 and was seen in the Systemic Art Show at the Guggenheim), has found a way of combining line and light. Ordinarily, line, which moves always in the single dimension of a plane, would contradict the non-planar illusionism of light. Gourfain has gotten around this problem by contriving to have the line read as light, rather than as a flat, opaque element.

Moreover the line is not a descriptive one, descriptive, that is, of discrete shape, but is employed rather to create a measured cellular filigree arranged in two tiers of from 20 to 27 cells per tier to form a non-relational pattern which emits light at the same time that it controls light’s implied depth. It is somewhat as if the pin-stripes of Frank Stella had been combined with the near total darkness of an Ad Reinhardt. Doubtlessly both are shaping forces in Gourfain’s sensibility, but it is Gourfain’s own idea to synthesize them. The result is a composition which shapes the ground plane without resorting to traditional drawing.

The luminous line is created by tinting it in a slightly lighter shade of the monochrome ground which is usually either a deep bluish green or maroon. This—the inference of chiaroscuro—is a somewhat old-fashioned note in an otherwise stylish image (it was this property that froze Reinhardt’s development), but it is mitigated by its being assimilated to line.

I preferred, then, the canvases with the finest filigree and, therefore, the greatest number of divisions, simply because they emphasized the linear aspect of light (as opposed to Miss Johanson’s linear aspect of color.) Otherwise, if the outlines were too widely spaced the spaces between them tended to read as autonomous shapes, thereby weakening the luminosity and linearity of the structuring grid. The grid itself is the new element here. It is both a structural scheme identical with shape and a shape identical with the structural scheme. It has many parts but reads all-over and at once.

––Sidney Tillim