New York

Gordon Hart

Bykert Gallery

Absolutely different from language concerns are the reductive but colorfully expressive paintings of Gordon Hart. They’re handsome objects, more to be looked at than talked about, but — although I’m sure he would deny it — Hart’s paintings operate loosely within the imperatives of serial and abstract imagery stemming from Brice Marden and Robert Ryman, with roots in Malevich and Mondrian. If you buy these very different philosophies, you get at least some criteria for discussing Hart’s paintings. The seven essentially vertical paintings, although they vary in scale from torso to man-size, and are painted in often analogous colors like orange in red, look like pages of an exercise book with the centers erased. Four or five thin and equally spaced lines jut into color fields from the two vertical edges of the paintings, playing both rigorous and hedonistic color games with the interplay between line and field. Lines act as accent marks on generally subtly scrubbed, or stroked, single-color fields with the direction of the brushmarks taking your eyes with them. There is a tension between an ambiguous figure, the line, and the pockmarked ground. This ambiguity is deliberately complicated by Hart’s fondness for decorative gold leaf, which he stumbles like a fiend, and in which you can see yourself. It tends optically to destroy the lines as well as to make hardcore reductive painters go pale.

The idea of the drawn lines changing color across their length, making them glow a bit, is nice. It works particularly well within the electric mark-making of the smaller drawings, which are often more vibrant than the larger paintings. Perversely, I also enjoy Hart’s decorative interest in the frames around his drawings. Frames of gold and silver scrubbed away on a “literal” broken-line motif are a nutty complement to the “depicted” imagery of the drawings, to use the right vernacular.

James Collins