New York

Anthony DeBlasi

Spectrum Gallery

A show which probably won’t get much attention, but which certainly deserves a serious look is Anthony DeBlasi’s first one man exhibition at the Spectrum Gallery. What at first appears to be a resemblance in design to Stella’s recent works turns out to be something quite different, and exhilarating in its own way. Within this group of half-a-dozen pictures, one senses some tremendous leaps which DeBlasi has been able to make, as he has explored a means which departs considerably from his own previous work (which was, for a while, figurative). Black and white reproductions are especially disappointing in this case, because they fail to register the lyrical freshness of DeBlasi’s color, which is the most surprising and rewarding aspect of these paintings. A number of early, almost square canvases (Twist, or Gap) are still tentative and a bit stiff—both in the range of pastel tones, and in the tighter weaving of interlocking arced bands which make up the image of all the paintings. In the two latest pictures, Fling, and the mural-sized Over Thirty, DeBlasi seems to have come to grips with the kind of coloristic breadth and illusionistic complexity which he was seeking. Both of these works have a greater spatiality (the switch to a rectangular format helps) and an infinite, swinging continuity which finally breaks with the more restrictive orderliness of the early paintings in the series.

Unlike Stella, whose overlapping curves are often stopped quite arbitrarily at the edge of a canvas by the imperatives of the outer shape (which flattens and contradicts their deceptive location within a multi-layered illusion of space), DeBlasi’s arcs admit more readily to an extension into the space of the field. At the same time that most of these arcs read quite flatly, the thin stripings along their edges, which add a fluorescent zip or optical color pulse to the scheme, can cause the bands to look tubular. Some of them suddenly appear to swing back into space, as they acquire this vague sense of volume. It is due to the consistent use of colors which are fairly close in value, and to the fact that none of the arcs approach the entity of the circles from which they are fragmented, that they also look flat. Because they are such shallow arcs, and because they are never allowed to pass completely under, over, or through each other, flatness is further emphasized. Paradoxically, the arcs tend to coincide with the literal flatness of the picture plane, even as they overlap slightly behind it. This kind of ambiguous and buoyant “gesturing” links DeBlasi more to Franz Kline, however, than it does to Stella. This points to the particular tenor of feeling which sustains these works, as opposed to the tough intellectualism of Stella’s paintings.

Over Thirty is DeBlasi’s most assured and boldest venture, both compositionally and chromatically. In it he begins to define the spatial intervals between and around the curving bands in a manner less “safe” than in the small square canvases. Color, too, has a greater brilliance and holding power than in the other paintings. On the right side of the field he combines broad arcs of cadmium orange (edged by lavender), sunny yellow, coral, and hot pink, with cooler segments of lime and plum. Towards the left, where the structure is more closely joined, the hues are correspondingly denser—deep blue, or tomato red with a dark viridian stripe—but they do not destroy the visual balance of the whole. A general whitening of the “free” areas of canvas plays up the warmth of most of the colors, whether they are the really hot bright hues or the cooler median tones, such as aqua, ochre, or olive. In these works one recognizes a significant departure for DeBlasi, rather than an ultimate set of decisions, but this beginning is encouraging to an extent that few first showings are these days.

Emily Wasserman