New York

April Gornik

April Gornik’s work displays a very different sort of primitivism, perhaps as schooled as Chia’s but not so knowing. It is primitivism adopted not as a strategy, but as a necessity. It is more about simply doing something as directly as possible.

Gornik paints landscapes. They are quite large pictures of wide open space, yet they are strangely claustrophobic. None of the paintings has much in the way of detail, but what detail there is is rendered with obsessive clarity—a fork of lightning, a few wispy clouds. Other areas, like the peculiar scrubby bushes that appear in several of the paintings, or a starry sky, or round, cotton-ball clouds, are painted with an almost childlike clumsiness. The areas between these highlights, areas depicting earth, water, sky, seem more or less perfunctory, yet the tonal range Gornik favors suggests an undefined menace in the air. The spatial organization of the paintings adds to this disorienting sense of constriction. Foreground and sky share the same plane, while the middle ground is either closed by an overemphatic horizon, or left a blur.

Earlier primitive artists have a literary look; their knowledge of how things are supposed to appear obviously comes from books. Gornik’s work is also about how things are supposed to look, but her landscapes are more like half-remembered glimpses of country seen from inside a fast-moving automobile, but rescreened through television. Bits and pieces of apparently meaningful information pop up, only to fade again in a flickering, unfocused blankness.

Thomas Lawson