New York

Stephen Greene

Staempfli Gallery

Stephen Greene’s studies, drawings and oils at the Staempfli Gallery show a hand and sensibility which are generally adroit in adapting to the needs of the mechanized biomorphic abstractions the artist has made his idiom. Like fantasized, fragmented, and floated machines, his rotating discs, socket-like forms and tensile lines are sketched out in a monochromatic Gorky-esque atmosphere which is both elegant and delicate in the best of the larger paintings such as the Equation of Night. Towards the formation of an intimately personal style Green draws on evident, though varied sources; his work is only weakened when this mixture of Picabia-like automated parts, Surreal abstract space, and expressionistic handling is indecisively countered or is too cluttered in relation to the moderate scale of the pictures. At times the drawings and studies are much freer and less self-consciously overworked than the paintings. Pictograph I (1968), though more rigidly compositioned than most of the oils, is typical of Greene’s favored imagery: gear-like discs, template tracings of glass chemistry vessels, encased bone or socket shapes, juggled and softly tinted, pull across the space and the page like a restless, dreamed machine.

In the paintings bright touches of color (red or green spots, geometric patches, rough swatches of purple, blue or orange) delineating the edge or the substance of a form, are made to accent and secure the spatial position of various configurations within the more indefinitely atmospheric and shallow abstract space of a field. These broad spatial areas are erratically punctured by almost whimsical details—flat rotating sectors in W. For F.S., wishbone quadrants in Equation of Night or Violet Light, or tiny dots in Pink, Green Dot, Orange. While these fragile details enhance the particular expressive quality of the work, in profusion they tend to detract from the overall spatiality of a picture by puncturing it with too many unrelated or gratuitous incidents. On occasion this may also compromise the attempt to set up a taut configurational web or armature in contrast to the loosely painted, more fluctuating expanses of indeterminate space. However, Greene usually manages to keep his pictures sufficiently open so that a deft measure is felt between the intricacy or specific involvement of line and shapes, and the unlimited, more relaxed extension of the field.

Emily Wasserman