New York

Theodoros Stamos

Emmerich Gallery

It is clear from the look of Theodoros Stamos’s Sun Boxes, new paintings at the Emmerich Gallery, that this veteran New York School artist is trying hard to keep pace with recent trends in color field painting, still consonant with his own energies and disposition. Both the scale and achievement of his canvases are modest in dimension. Stamos is concerned with the creation of luminous color presences which suggest without describing the effects of atmosphere and weather. Perhaps because of the limitations of size, or perhaps because Stamos is not quite able to fill or even maintain a certain kind of authority within this fairly small scale, the paintings tend to fall short of that truly luminous and full presence towards which they aspire. And yet their coloring is certainly one of the most handsome features of these paintings.

The Sun Boxes are rectangular or long and horizontal in format, usually divided into two or three areas by parallel bars (which read as horizontally ployed forms, not just as divisive lines). Over or under these bars are placed floating rectangles—sometimes tipped at an angle to the horizontals. Paint is often mottled and thin (it seems to be daubed into the canvas with a sponge) and tends toward two ranges: golds, pink corals, beiges, and oranges, or cobalt blues, olive, and drab blackish greens cooled with white. Stamos likes to contrast thinly sponged fields with solidly brushed bars, and in the Olivet Sun Box he does this with classical directness. A flat light blue field on which a darker blue textured square and rectangle are set is crossed on one edge with a cream colored bar, and between the boxes with a citron yellow line. Long Red Sun Box differs from most of the others for its feeling of a very shallow window like space. The box which floats within this narrow horizontal canvas is virtually the same tomato red color as the ground, and the effect of its blended edges is to render a sense of a slim layered—or inset—relationship between the field and the box.

Homage to Milton Avery is one of the finer paintings in the group and the colors sing with great clarity and sense. A golden yellow box is hazed around its contours by an apricot pink, and this bright square jostles over a white bar capping a “sea” of intense, saturated blue. Here perhaps the reference to landscape or sun-over-horizon is stronger than in many of the other canvases. Nevertheless, the relationship between parts is felt to be right, or cohesive in a way that works with rather than against the color. In some of the other paintings these relationships are more awkward, and the use of dullish greens and strong admixtures of black in the Adriatic and Double Aegean Sun Boxes results in less subtle balances between color values and shapes. In these the use of the extremely dark tones to describe the boxes either makes them pop out or recede into the lighter field in a way that subverts the generally depthless, though pulsating and airy quality which is distinctive to some of the other paintings.

Emily Wasserman