New York

Douglas Abdell

Gallozzi-La Placa Gallery

This show was an eye-opener on several levels. It displayed the formidable painting skills of an artist who first made his mark in the early ’70s as an abstract sculptor, and it underscored the need to consider the spiritual as a major issue in the art of the ’80s.

Douglas Abdell’s deep and abiding interest in language, and particularly in the relationships between words, images, sounds, and shapes, are evident throughout these recent paintings. Working on wooden panels constructed from found packing frames as well as on canvas, he creates unforgettable pictures of energized visual poetry. Abdell welds form and content in a gestural calligraphy which explodes across his rich, dense, colorful surfaces with the exciting freedom and force of New York graffiti art.

What accounts for the thoroughly engaging character of his painting, however, is his sophisticated and universal imagery. A sacred quality imbues these invented pictographs. Grid-oriented, sticklike figures, called “Klaeny” by Abdell, are intended to represent mythic personages and do impress as such—Thaen-Meta and Klaeny-Maeto, both 1983, are notable—and they are accompanied by various crosses, crisscrosses, and running, serpentine shapes. In Le Bateau Noir, 1983, the ideographic and idiomatic meet with iconic results. This luminous painting is executed with the artist’s blend of oil and acrylic paints; the central motif, with its bow-shaped silhouette and pointed edges adorned with shifting patterns of crosses, seems a citadel of structure, order, and faith amidst a dynamic space whose flying forms sing of the menacing dangers of the unconscious.

Ronny Cohen