New York

John Albers

Robert Freidus Gallery

John Albers’ first solo show established him as an artist to follow on the new figurative front. A powerful vision of the human figure is offered in these painted constructions; the works, including both single and group, freestanding and relief sculptures, directly address the constructively expressive sensibility of ’80s art.

Albers’ focus is the male nude. Working with fragments of wood he builds heads and torsos piece by piece, creating fractured structures which make expressive use of planar displacements, volumetric distensions, and simultaneous views. The approach is at once analytical and lyrical. By varying the scale and the degree of relief of his figures, and by juxtaposing sharp tonal contrasts, Albers emphasizes the specific construction of his forms; however, he can also transform perceptual and formal information about size, viewpoint, and coloration into psychological data. In empathetic response, the viewer is immediately caught by the gesture, implied movement, and emotivity of these figures.

Deep Madder, 1982, the largest work in the show, displays particularly well Albers’ keen ability to animate forms and to suggest monumental, even mythical contexts. In this mural-sized relief construction a group of male nudes are shown in various stages of emergence from a flat, abstract, dark-red background (the “deep madder” of the title). Scale, pose, direction, and color vary from figure to figure. Art-historical references abound—some anatomical details recall Old Master and academic treatments while others bring to mind Fauvism, Expressionism, and Cubism; recognition of such sources, however, hardly dominates the experience of the work. Like the other pieces here, Deep Madder leaves the viewer with a clear image of Albers’ distinctive concept. Active, aggressive, but contemplative, this art invites metaphysical speculation without offering gimmicks or easy answers.

Ronny Cohen