New York

Natavar Bhavsar

Max Hutchinson Gallery

Natavar Bhavsar, at MaxHutchinson’s, works with spotted turfs of some dominant but varying color surrounded at the edges by conglomerations of juxtaposed and clashing hues. These pigment-flecked canvases suggest neo-Impressionism more by their palpable dryness of finish and by their use of the complementary border idea than by the simple fact of their tiny dotlike facture. When we notice the orange field of R-DHYA checked by patches mainly of a brilliant blue, the principle of complementary colors makes the analogy inescapable.

Bhavsar, however, is quite unlike the neo-Impressionists in his aims and procedures. He builds up heavy alluvial deposits of dry pigment that suggest the geological, specifically sedimentary, evocations of a number of contemporary painters. But here, while the paint looks sprayed on, it is actually applied as a sprinkling of dry powder onto a canvas prepared with an adhesive that soaks up the granules, without dissolving them, into one solid crust united with the supporting fabric and built up thick enough to peel off at will—although the cracked areas are deliberately induced by the use of a quick-dry substance. The process is too “original” to overlook; this even becomes offensively distracting. And the unpleasantness is increased by a deception: the paintings look as fragile and exposed to injury as pastels, though they are of great dura bility once they dry. But the toughness or durability of paint is a thought more hospitably entertained when confronted by a chair or a wall than by a painting. It is not something we worry about willingly, but here there is no choice.

The titles of this artist’s works are more helpful than“ untitled” for purposes of identification, while avoiding the sequential implications of opus numbers. But no title—not even “untitled”—is altogether without implications, and titles like V-NRAA, P-RUVAA, and S-VETA do carry the anonymous, even institutional or bureaucratic, overtones of, say, highly specialized U. N. agencies or strange projects of the U. S. Navy.

Bhavsar’s paintiogs are notingratiating but they do seem sure of themselves. It would, no doubt, be wrong to make too much of his Indian background, and yet it is as if some esthetic entirely different from ours were at work. Take as an example the 18'-long K-NRAA. Its scale and its graspable organization seem accessible enough, but there are a few dark dots, scattered over the interior field, which in their intense, resonant pointedness are more like sharp, lonely, percussive plucks on some Asian stringed instrument than they are like what Westerners mean when they speak of a painting as musical. One wonders whether, if it concentrated on sensations of that order, Bhavsar’s art might not more readily come into its own.

Joseph Masheck