New York

Gene Davis, Sally Drummond, James Bishop, Doug Ohlson, Bill Jensen, Ray Parker, Robert Mangold, and Ron Gorchov

Fischbach Gallery

Fischbach mounted a group show of abstract painting, companion piece to the Realist painting show held earlier in the season. Gene Davis and Sally Drummond continue their abstract styles, which are neither credible or discreditable, filling the entire canvas respectively with vertical stripes and dots. James Bishop’s monochrome rust-colored painting, through which glows the faint outline of a window, is perhaps too close to Rothko’s work, as is a painting by Doug Ohlson. Still working with round sprayed shapes, Ohlson has increased their number until they overlap. The shapes in this painting, Called Well, are black except for those in the bottom row which are a dark rust. The work suggests both Rothko’s color, and his surface and light, while Bishop’s suggests mainly the light. Both Bishop and Ohlson achieve usual, but not uninteresting effects of surface and light while still retaining an interesting, vaguely naturalistic imagery. In some ways this holds true for Bill Jensen’s large painting in which huge, swirling circles of paint mixed with sand form a rough, relief-like surface. The scale and material of the work make it very assertive, but the imagery itself seems ultimately decorative and familiar. Ray Parker’s cutout shapes floating on a salmon-colored ground are also fairly decorative, close to Matisse.

The most interesting paintings in the exhibition were those by Robert Mangold and Ron Gorchov; they seemed convincing in terms of the relationship between the configuration and the support. Both paintings deviate from the traditional flat, square canvas, but just as Gorchov deviates from the flat and Mangold from the square, each is everything the other is not. Mangold’s meticulously finished blue painting is a flat, five-sided polygon on which a black circular line is drawn to touch all five edges. The relationship between the painting’s shape and the painted shape is direct and visible: The first decides the second. The Gorchov is considerably more difficult to describe. The square stretcher curves out at the center top and bottom. The result is a shaped surface which comes forward at the top and bottom edges and in the center; in other words, there is a moderate concave curve in operation from top to bottom and a convex one from side to side. The surface is painted a deep blue green; two vertical lines of lighter green loosely bisect the center section, at the points it begins to curve down to the side edges. Thus the lines are located generally at the outermost points of the convex (side to side) curve, and at the inner points of the concave (top to bottom) one. As in the Mangold, the configuration is located by physical changes in the support. Unlike the Mangold, the lines are part of the total surface because the entire surface, lines and all, is painted in loose, uneven vertical strokes. Another major difference is that the Gorchov is crudely painted and built, with the canvas stapled to the front of the stretcher. The physical nature of the painting is offensive; from certain points, it suggests a poorly designed boat. Yet when viewed frontally its physical nature is ultimately subjected to and the basis for a strong and visual image. This is a perverse kind of illusionism. The Mangold lacks this perversity, although it is rather humorous. Both paintings are singular and assertive.

Roberta Pancoast Smith