New York

Dan Christensen

Andre Emmerich uptown

Dan Christensen, at Andre Emmerich’s uptown gallery, spreads his Rococo tints with a squeegee into slick flat swipes that run the length of the canvas but bend in their repetitive curves like the regular but wavering overlapping trails of an ice-scraper on a hockey court. These vertical paintings relate very closely to works by Olitski, but the comparison is generally on the order of a weak Soulages to a strong Kline, and given the initial delicacy of the Olitskis in question, a certain flabbiness results.

Christensen’s stroke is by nature continuous and necessitates virtuosity, since a severe discontinuity would be disruptive. The stretcher asserts itself in an ideal way, for the long, sluiced strokes involve a discrete beginning, end, and repetition or follow-through. But it is also a material limit, especially when it exposes itself under the pressure of the squeegee. (David Diao has carefully explored this effect.) The mammoth, overlapping strokes give the painting as a whole something of the character of a blownup detail from some Expressionist megawork, an effect which is heightened by the fact that the strokes, when seen this way, suggest a thick impasto, although their actual slickness could evoke truly thick strokes flattened in photographs.

There is weakness in the deployment of color, a reserved off-white palette. The paintings seem light and overly inflected compared to the bravado of the big long strokes of which they consist. And the whole effect seems too heavily Process-determined. Delicate tints alternate and obscure one another, but in a way so dominated by the mechanics of paint application that they seem abused by some impersonal procedure like “marbleizing” or the imitation of wood grain. (In fact, the sheenlike interruption of some of the big strokes by a skipping scrape that brings another color to the fore even suggests the opalescent grosgrain effect of some polished woods.) The assertiveness of the strokes involves a calculation that fights with the gentler indeterminacy, and the strokes themselves sometimes fall into curvy returns and calligraphic clichés.

Joseph Masheck