New York

Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe

Rina Gallery

The work in Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe’s first exhibition was both ambitious and derivative. Gilbert-Rolfe is a young painter who also writes for this magazine, and his work attempts to specify both its pictorial and objective nature, an undertaking which he has discussed in writing on other artists. He also attempts to combine a structure that is self-explanatory with a painterliness that is not. The issue in all this seems to be the resolution of a number of dialectically opposed positions. Such an ambition is as interesting as it is prevalent right now. My objection is that in Gilbert-Rolfe’s work so far the various points of these dialectics seem to be manifested in forms which emanate from the work of other artists, especially Rockburne, Bochner, and Marden. A second objection is that despite what is obviously the ambition toward their resolution, these elements often remain quite unintegrated, existing primarily as self-sufficient illustrations for the ideas which concern Gilbert-Rolfe.

The seven pieces of work exhibited, most of them executed in the gallery with a specific relationship to its space, are quite disparate. Judging from the earliest two done last year, the work has been developing rapidly. The three largest, most complicated works were made of paint and pencil on large sheets of white paper, sometimes partially rolled and tacked to the wall. In one, two pieces of paper, side by side, overlap slightly on the vertical. The left section is rolled at the top and is almost bare except for a penciled diagonal extending from the top of overlap upward into the roll of paper. The other section is cut at the top to form a triangle, a shape which is completed by being painted a different color from the remaining square section below. A second piece simply titled Left Wall is similarly involved with the difference in the spatiality of painted and drawn elements, as well as a treatment of the support as both a two-dimensional supporting surface and a three-dimensional object, and finally as a flat, physical material in its own, unpainted, right. In both pieces, as in some of the others, the paint is applied in thick, visible strokes which remain distinct, as do the component colors and to some extent the various layers.

The third piece has a more legible structure and consists of three pieces of paper installed around a corner. Experiencing the piece involves a careful reading of the relationships between the various measurements of the areas and the diagonals, each clarifying the other. Ultimately the diverse elements which Gilbert-Rolfe combines do not reveal their own necessity, individually or in relationship to each other. Without conviction, the decisions seem arbitrary, despite the fact that the work is full of, and clearly manifests many different ideas.

––Roberta Smith