New York

David Deutsch

Annina Nosei Gallery

In David Deutsch’s new paintings abstraction once again becomes visionary, evoking an enigmatic world of feeling closed in upon itself. Expansive yet hermetic, his garden vistas reminded me of Roman wall painting; there is the same sense of a faded yet all-encompassing nature, subtly forceful despite its atmospheric softness, more evocative than descriptive of open space yet resolutely flat, and thereby all the more spatially complete. There is also the same sense of diminished humanity, the human hanging on at the edge yet a disturbing presence—in Deutsch the more disturbing through the machines the human brings with it. There is an air of potential disaster in these pictures, of a storm that may never come yet that has already invaded the mood. The calm is apocalyptic.

But the works are subtle. Deutsch’s window shade closed against the world makes planarity a devastating revelation, as it once was. Grandeur is restored to the rectangle, not by echoing it internally but by making it metaphoric; it is not an illusionistic boundary, but an inevitable presentation space to control vision. Deutsch does not so much give us a sense of illusion created as of intuition mastered, a private vision of a fictionally complete world made public. His nature is not so much a pastoral fiction as a languorous sign of satisfied desire, a stepping-stone to awareness of another kind of desire, at once more metaphysical and pretentious yet finally humbler in its pretensions, wanting only an elementary connectedness with the fundamental, the infinite, without thereby giving up the pleasure one can take in nature’s everyday appearance.

This peculiar mixture of the mundane and metaphysical in Deutsch’s pictures makes them oddly resistant to ordinary (reductive) conceptual analysis. One doesn’t want to disturb what may be an unstable, lucky unity, a transient penetration to the mystery. Deutsch avoids both dull realism and ominous symbolism, giving us a steady glance at a nature that seems to abstract itself into a fiction because of its (to us) unreal infinity, and that at the same time is no more than the finite setting for our little drama. This is what gives his landscapes their sinister aura—this duplicity, and the muted presence of evil that the machines hint of. Deutsch’s pictures tell a familiar story—the failure of nature to live up to its arcadian promise because of the deadly human presence within it. They are full of a strange fatalism, which brings us back to their abstractness; for abstraction may be a form of stoicism in the face of the fundamental.

Donald Kuspit