New York

Joseph Raffael

Joseph Raffael’s Water Painting II, which is representative of his show, is a study of a section of sea, or, perhaps, of a mountain stream. The color is hard and bright and thinly painted. Raffael’s use of the medium suggests two possible and related concerns on his part. One concern would be to present an image of great mobility frozen by the medium of paint, which is here made to come as close as possible to the light-filled transparency of water. Another concern—a corollary, perhaps, of the first—would be about the possibility of dislocating the viewer by eliminating painterly gesture in the interests of a pictorial subject that itself evokes the allover gestural emphasis of Abstract Expressionism. In this last respect, Raffael suggests Roy Lichtenstein’s painting of a brushstroke much more than Mother’s Waterlilies.

A third concern of Raffael’s might be to evoke color photography in order to concentrate on oil painting’s specific material attributes—a surface applied piece by piece, a greater degree of transparency—as opposed to those of photographic emulsion. None of these concerns seems to connect Raffael to any urgent questions, or to propose an idiosyncratic endeavor valuable for its own sake.

Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe