San Francisco

Gregg Renfrow

Grapestake Gallery

Gregg Renfrow’s paintings project an engaging physicality. Through textured polymer surfaces, layered into geometric forms, they suggest a non-literal landscape that vibrates with a topographic expansiveness. Since the early 1970s Renfrow has worked in acrylic, initially constructing hanging panels predominately in earth tones. His most recent paintings push this material to new extremes, developing an emphatic concreteness that is almost sculptural, and a brilliant palette in which so-called “decorative” hues, particularly pinks and yellows, are handled with expertise.

Renfrow applies acrylic and pigment overlays to polyethylene, peeling the skin from the base, and then affixing it to a fibermesh and wood support. The organic texture realized through the building up of multiple skins counterpoints the grid impressions of the fiber-mesh skeleton, as well as the slat banded imprint cast from the floorboards of the artist’s studio. The final forms—large rectilinear and arc-shaped planes—move into space with jagged irregularity.

Wooden slats, which project the paintings away from the wall, and a finishing-off of the edges with resin, create a three-dimensional feel, imbuing these works with a sculptural presence. Additionally, the actual positioning of planar shapes, so that they give the illusion of interlocking or overlapped forms, assures a sense of movement across the surface, making the field appear compartmental yet cohesive. In the reliance on geometric configurations, Renfrow bears resemblance to Ron Davis. But while Davis employs a perspective that directs the viewer to the center of the field, Renfrow pushes the spectator’s vision to the boundaries of the object. In this manner the field seems almost invisibly to continue beyond the edges, the painting functioning as a visualized fragment of a larger but unseen structure.

Color, particularly the juxtaposition of vibrantly opposite hues (e.g. red and yellow), is deliberately raucous. The layered application process allows for colors to bleed in from under the surface, and though the forms initially read as one hue, they are often conglomerates of several colors. The rough elements are finished in either gloss or mat, sometimes with an occasional opening that reveals the wall—an unanticipated variation in the work. Like Diebenkorn’s Ocean Parks, Renfrow’s compositions offer a decorative expansiveness in which sensuous colors appear experimental but never simplistic. His work reflects an intelligent exploration that takes into account both personal methodology and the spectator’s visceral response.

Hal Fischer