New York

Wayne Stephens

141 Prince Street

Wayne Stephens’ approach to illusion and reality, unlike Porter’s, is definitely within the context of painting. While Porter employs images which are deceptively real, Stephens employs real elements which are deceptively two-dimensional. His paintings are large (7’ x 14’) and monochrome. The entire surface of each painting is a fine matte texture, except for the curved stretcher edges where the paint is applied in a smooth, shiny gloss. A red and a cream painting each consist of nothing more than the differentiated applications of paint and the curved edges, which create a continuous surface between the picture plane and the wall. In a third, black painting, a fine white string and a clear nylon thread loop down from one top corner to the center bottom and back up to the other corner. The nylon thread is visible only where it catches the light; both string and thread read as lines drawn on the painting’s surface. In a fourth, more complex piece, two perpendicular square black canvases—one on the wall, the other on the floor—have diagonals of red nylon thread connecting their opposite, outside corners. The red “X” which appears to be drawn is in actuality not only tangible but also spans a great deal of real space. The four paintings involve various approaches to illusion in painting. The plain monochromes are the perfect nonillusionistic paintings: They do absolutely nothing. The rectangle with the loops of thread presents an inverse form of illusion—a tangible image which appears to be two-dimensional. The double square does the same while it occupies a sculptural space. The only objection is that the paintings, serious and reduced as they are, tend to look like objects.

––Roberta Pancoast Smith