New York

Gary Bower

O.K. Harris Gallery

Hoyland’s show consisted of two kinds of paintings only when considered in terms of the extremes, but there was a middle ground between the extremes so that his paintings could be seen as a progression. However, Gary Bower’s show at O.K. Harris was a case of excluded middle and consisted of two distinct kinds of paintings, which are supposedly not chronologically distinct. Four of Bower’s paintings were a continuation of his earlier work based on horizontal-vertical-diagonal grid structures; but the new grid paintings are made of layers of gestural brushstrokes within which the grid of masking tape is laid down and removed so the paintings are, in a sense, all gestural brushstrokes, including the formation of the grids. Portions of the grids are so overwhelmed by so much brushwork as to get lost entirely. Bower’s interest in these paintings seems to be in the conflict between the wildness of the brushstrokes within the confines of the rigidness of the grid system, and in the surface tension of the illusion of push-pull, in-out, etc. But an awful lot of other painters seem to be interested in accomplishing the same thing by essentially the same method to such a degree that the accomplishment seems already to have been rather thoroughly accomplished.

The only connection between Bower’s grid paintings and the other four paintings in the show occurs in Studio Land, a painting which like the others of its kind are mostly washlike stains on raw cotton canvas, except that in this painting a charcoal drawing of a wire fence forms a horizontal-vertical grid superimposed on the lower two-thirds of the painting. Characteristic of these four paintings are the washes, plenty of raw canvas, and the occurrence of sets of circles filled in with paint. The repeated stenciling of a pair of hands in one of these paintings suggests a getting into mysticism, which when applied to the other nongrid paintings seems to make sense, in terms of the paintings at least. Without the notion of mysticism, these paintings seem thoughtless; within the notion of mysticism, the paintings, from my point of view, seem equally thoughtless, but perhaps this would not be the case for someone more sympathetic to mysticism.

––Bruce Boice