New York

Clinton Hill

Zabriskie Gallery

As the basis of his sectioned acrylic painted and assembled panels, Clinton Hill, showing at the Zabriskie Gallery, uses a rather standard and unexceptional notion of relationships. Attractive though they are on first examination, his paintings manifest a single-minded decorative sensibility which never quite supersedes the level of those relationships the artist chooses to diagram in his work. Partitioned into four or five actual or painted rectangles within square or rectangular fields, the surface of each section of a canvas is softly modulated with neutralized tints (grey pinks, off-white, toasty beige, purplish cerise, coral, greenish mustard). In Blush II Hill alternates the gradations of each register from left to right or right to left in light, then dark tonalities, stacking a plum-to-buff, grey-to-green/pink, lavender-to-sienna, and grey-to-mauve group of panels on top of each other, so that the surface of the whole gently expands and contracts, both horizontally and vertically as each panel encounters its neighbor. This is the general scheme employed in most of the other works, although divisions are not always equal and the coloring may be more garishly varied or less discretely and softly graded from part to part.

The muted painterly qualities are in keeping with the restrained, almost atmospheric chiaroscuro which Hill contrasts to the more objective and literal focus of the construction of his paintings. The works neither challenge nor offend. The most adventuresome larger painting is In Threes, sectioned down its middle with a narrow strip of blended coral, and surrounded by two wider squared zones of ochre and greenish-blue grey. Here the surface buckles more perceptibly and the contrast of hues is more severe. Some small drawings done on a thready fiberglass paper looked infinitely more subtle and refined than the larger works, while the absence of an attempt to physically shape the fields in terms of objectness gave to these modest and careful drawings a measure of success and delicacy that was missed in the big canvases. The color modulations are less tedious and conventional on a smaller scale, since it seems that Hill is more apt to take risks in these sketches, which he is unwilling to deal with or control in expanded proportion.

Emily Wasserman