New York

Aris Koutroulis

Gloria Cortella Gallery

Aris Koutroulis’ current paintings are variations on one theme: having developed a way of mixing pigment with glue, his large canvases are actually composites of hundreds of small rectangular strips of linen that are at once bound to and set apart from each other by the viscous mixture. Koutroulis holds to a single color of glue in each picture, but the strips of cloth change in size. This modulation of size is an intelligent move on the artist’s part. One can easily imagine setting Koutroulis’ program for oneself and coming up with little but a few more Minimal grids. Albeit subtly, Koutroulis is deliberately working against Minimalist sensibility, for rather than measuring out the strips and razoring them against a ruler, he judges by eye and cuts with scissors. Indeed, he allows his eye and hand a fair degree of license to be inaccurate, so that his pictures are finally patchworks rather than matrices. In his cloth strips’ failure to fit together precisely (and in the random drips and spots he permits his colored glue) resides the pictures’ nuancing.

Thus Koutroulis keeps a foot—or half of one—inside the Minimalist camp, using its own expressive devices to reveal its poverty. His pictures, emphasizing their expressive option, mark the futility of a pure and perfect elementary grid. They say: the grid that tries to be immaculate cannot keep its shape, cannot hold its own parts together. It cannot avoid fractures and split seams and would be better off if it tried not to be exact, but instead took on its own imperfection and made something of that. Koutroulis explains that his colored glue, when it hardens, is so tenacious that if one decided to rip a painting of his in half, the tear would occur in the linen strips rather than at the seams. Somehow, this fact is apparent to an innocent viewer of the paintings—the glue doesappear stronger than the cloth, and this aspect itself takes on major meaning. It is at their ostensible point of weakness that his pictures are most expressive and most powerful.

At the furthest remove, Koutroulis’ paintings thus affirm the value and pleasure of pure, intuitive picture making, as against systematized and reductive efforts to match in art the confident, unassailable, pure esthetic of computers and airplane cockpits. Koutroulis affirms while knowing all along that we have severely called painting into question—that we have made it a frail medium, one that might disintegrate without the aid of a strong cement.

Leo Rubinfien