New York

Jack Bush

Emmerich Gallery, Uptown

Jack Bush at Emmerich Uptown also uses calligraphic elements in his paintings, but they function as indices of surface, volume, and movement, rather than as hieroglyphs. Placement and color are of primary importance. The stippled backgrounds, painted with rollers specked with various colors, give the paintings a feeling of density and activity. Because this surface doesn’t extend all the way to the edges, leaving some raw canvas, there appears to be a posterior flat plane which creates a connection with the superimposed shapes.

A difficulty in the use of calligraphic figures, no matter how abstract, is that they demand to be read as signs, often causing a pictorialism, a sense of the anecdotal or illustrative. This sometime occurs in Bush’s work when the shapes sit against the background suggesting the static quality of linguistic or mathematical symbols instead of volumes.

Bush is inventive and daring in his decisions; the immediacy of placement, the oddity of shape, and the offhandedness of execution indicate his desire to create personal forms and relationships. The success of the marks depends upon great precision in placement and choice of color; a limited number of elements must energize the entire work. The thinness of some of the paintings in the show results from the limitations of one-shot works. A mark is somehow misplaced by an inch, an overtransparent figure cannot be repainted, too many marks are put on and can’t be eradicated, a color is too sharp or flat. Sometimes the graininess of the background overpowers the superimposed colors, making them watery ’and tentative. Although at times overeccentric, the awkwardness of execution seems to belong to the intention and has the virtue of straightforwardness, unpredictability, and an endearing lack of guile.

Lizzie Borden