New York

Frank Owen

French and Company

Frank Owen submitted himself to a gimmick in his paintings. He has evolved a complex means of creating aurora borealis-like bands of many colors by partially mixing viscous acrylic pigment so that discrete colors still show when the paint is poured and spread slowly on canvas. The effect is reminiscent of the marbled interiors of old book covers. It is often very beautiful, but so domineering that Owen has difficulty conveying much beyond it. He does attempt to change the look of his paintings by varying the colors from strident combinations using a lot of white to predominantly black mixes. In the one dark work of this nature he also changed the surface from its usual taffy-smoothness to cracks and fissures similar to Poons’s most recent work.

The paintings are most frequently organized by a simple zigzag pattern that reflects the nervous jumping of the color within it. The zigzags run horizontally in one case, vertically or diagonally in others. Such minor variations in an initially repetitive motif can’t possibly give enough coherence to take the canvases beyond their royal ripple surfaces. There is only one painting in the show that holds promise of more interest. Owen smeared the paint in this one, after it was poured, in a way that suggests explosively magnified Impressionist brushwork. Huge, smeared strokes bring the white in the paint to the surface, creating banked masses of pigment with considerable visual weight. The small drawings in the back room at French and Company are also better organized than most of the paintings. In them, thin, translucent colors are shaped in a single rainbow stroke, or placed together on a grid. The marble effect is gossamer and unpretentious in the drawings.

Kasha Linville