New York

Kastutis Zapkus

Stable Gallery

The shadow of textile design falls across much of present-day sensibility. Early Stellas are called “pinstripes” and the recent Nolands are talked of in terms of “awning stripes” and “mattress-ticking.” A like metaphor is applicable to Kastutis Zapkus’s new paintings at the Stable. On the shallowest level they seem so many buntefarbe Rodier weaves.

About eight years ago a grid formation slowly began to emerge out of Zapkus’s expressionist canvases. By degrees this formation became the explicit tectonic anchor of his work—at length swelling into exposed serial structures and polyptychs. Recently, this theoretic has been expanded to incorporate a time honored musical metaphor—twelve-tone rows.

The apology comes to us from Kandinsky and Kupka. Zapkus’s most radical twist relates to his dissatisfaction with the vertical horizontal coordinate “normal” to grid structures in favor of a more contrapuntal order of diagonal stripes, at moments superimposed one on another. The transparencies caused by these overlappings are additionally orchestrated by tiny rectangles, Criss crossings, eccentric angles and isosceles formations, tiny Suprematist motifs and other rod-like chromosomal breaks flaked about like confetti.

Zapkus’s theoretical bent leads him into tight corners. “As a parallel to the Twelve Tone Row,” he writes, “I used a twelve color sequence, acting on a varying length and brevity program simultaneously, while going through their repetitive modes of variation.” The twelve tone mode works theoretically, but like the music of Berg and Schonberg, the paintings too must stand on their emotional quotients. The emotional clog exists not in the system but in the color. Attracted by Yuletide acrylics and crisp chroma Zapkus carries out his program mercilessly. He is, one might say, only carrying out orders, and so, the curious circuitry evoked by his system comes off hard as nails. What occurs is paradoxical—theoretical generosity and visual parsimony. This is not as negative as it sounds. Who, for example, is more galvanizing—Portia or Shylock?

Robert Pincus-Witten