New York

Ron Gorchov

Hamilton Gallery

I have run into Ron Gorchov’s work frequently in group shows, in ones or twos, and I’ve never liked it very much. This show surprised me. I was not made impatient by the large quantity of “shields,” and they actually seemed better in multiple variation. Extensive gallery-going experience leads almost everyone to believe that repetition, series and sets are conducive to deadly boredom. But this show made me feel better about the future of Gorchov’s brand of art—basically an abstract, expressionist signature painting. All you need is one person who does it well.

The paintings are instantly recognizable as “Gorchovs.” That curved, Einsteinian surface, a poke in the ribs at flatness, turns painting into shapely relief without suggesting volume. It’s both concave and convex, sticking out at the top and bottom and receding on the sides. The rounded edges imply a continuous rather than bounded space, and no corners arrest vision at a single point—rather like Matisse’s conception of the human body.

Color from painting to painting is “felt,” meant to be expressive in itself; I found it stronger, livelier than before. Yellow (which is difficult because it doesn’t hold shape well), red and blue—clear and bright, vivid and unapologetically pronounced—are not inhibited or neutralized by combination or contrast with complementaries or equally bright hues. This was especially true of the “squiggles” painted thickly and directly (the backgrounds are layered, washy and thin) which could be read as “handles” by which one gets “hold” of the painting.

Variation in size and scale seemed to me to make the most interesting differences. Size does not affect shape in rectangular painting, but it does in Gorchov’s work. Small, medallionlike paintings became nearly circular, while very large ones looked almost “normal.” I liked the small, intimate ones best for their quirky, budding “organic-ness” and visual seed-size—they reminded me of blossoms or pods, like Klees. The large ones (one was mural-sized) were like extinct, prehistoric animals, brontosauruses—overbearing, awkward, fascinating, implausible.

The centralized “kidneys” changed from painting to painting: they sprouted bumps, sharpened into knife shapes, protruded like barbells. Sometimes they were both “righthanded” (or ”lefthanded") rather than mirrored, adding an asymmetrical imbalance having an impact hard to describe. The body of the painting no longer appealed to one’s own mirrored body structure, but something mutated and strange, nonreflexive.

A list of small details perhaps; slight shifts in emphasis—but they added up and accumulated, producing more variety than I could have imagined before. Gorchov’s paintings really need each other for company.

Jeff Perrone