New York

Jonathan Santlofer

Pam Adler Gallery

Jonathan Santlofer produces some of the most aggressive paintings around. At the source of the strong impact made by each of the single panels and diptychs here is the supercharged relationship between the shaped edges and the illusionistic planar images. Surging sensations of colored space in movement and depth characterize these curvy, lushly painted pictorial forms.

The paintings range in size from Breaking, 1982, which measures 21 1/4 by 20 inches, to the large diptychs like Duet II, 1982, which measures 82 by 79 inches. In the larger works the expansive qualities inherent in Santlofer’s rhythmical, asymmetrical compositions are given free and vibrant reign. Duet II is representative of the methods: it is made using a regular stretcher bar to which plywood extensions, cut in the desired shapes, are added. Canvas is then stretched over the resulting added but flat surface. The panels in this diptych overlap at two points, and leave a bare middle section through which the wall shows. This structure, which casts strong shadows, underscores the real, physical relief of the picture, which is built out 4 1/2 inches on the left panel and 4 3/4 inches on,the right. And at the same time the structure focuses the viewer’s attention on the dynamic conflicts taking place on the surface. Santlofer has created an illusionistic relief using a lively, centrifugal/centripetal, directed composition consisting of folded, overlapped, and heavily three-dimensional shadowed and scalloped planes. The rhythmical repetition of the dominant colors, a device that draws the viewer’s eye across and around the composition, contributes to the vivid impression of weighted forms in flight.

According to the artist, the Duets—Duet I was also shown—“came out of dance.” Not surprisingly, time is an active element in the reading/understanding/appreciation of these pieces. Another related aspect is the powerful personage quality. The clear, specific, syncopated imagery of Santlofer’s paintings gives them a confident, confrontational look that clearly locates them among the abstract work meaningful for the 1980s.

Ronny H. Cohen