New York

Power Boothe

A.M. Sachs Gallery

In shows in 1975 and ’76 Power Boothe experimented with grid patterns set upon stained canvas; this created a tension in the image between contiguity and superimposition. In the present show the stain is replaced by textural paint, the veiled hues by a harsh palette. Still, the canvas web is important as it affects and is echoed in the design. The paintings consist of thin (1/2“) bands of five colors (which vary from painting to painting), broken by an occasional vertical band. A weave is created: a tapestry rather than a grid; a sensuous design rather than an abstract construct. The flavor is Eastern. Before, Boothe used the web as a stained ground; now, it is an organizational principle. But does the web dictate the design? The surface is so textural and so interwoven as to create its own ground, as if the inner consistency of the design forms the structure and not vice versa. The work engages us like a maze: subliminally, perhaps, the resemblance of the design to the canvas web draws our eye in, but this is counteracted by the texture and color of the paint. A like tension is afforded by the disrupted narrative of the work, whose horizontal and vertical elements are not harmonious. Thus we can neither ”read" the work nor see it as a unitary image.

In 1974 Boothe did paintings with chalklike circles, dot and radial line, upon a black ground—images that, being digital, like a watch, called up ideas of time. In 1976 he did paintings that seemed to image phenomena like rays of light or synaptic impulses—or was it the graph of such phenomena? The current work continues the play between phenomena as such (perhaps here the spectrum) and the symbolic-scientific register of it. It seems we are given, in one, a field of sensations and its record and are asked to determine which come first.

We assume a system of symmetry but there is in fact none. The bands from left to right taper downward and often merge; the colors seem hierarchical but are random; and any one band may have several hues. Phenomenal (or is it perceptual or technical?) oddity questions or frustrates conceptual order, so that a “doubt” is evident here, akin to what Merleau-Ponty termed “Cezanne’s Doubt.” Apparently Boothe feels that pictorial order must be extracted (from nature, empirical science, or the nature of painting), not imposed (as perspective is). There is a give-and-take of the rational and the intuitive.

Hal Foster