New York

Harvey Tulcensky

Bette Stoler Gallery

This may sound paradoxical, but the best thing to have happened to contemporary abstraction is neo-Expressionism. All the attention given the much-heralded return of the figure and of psychological subjects in nee-Expressionism has encouraged, I think, the open and inclusive attitude in much abstract art these days. This attitude is certainly present in the recent paintings of Harvey Tulcensky.

Working in a bold graphic style, Tulcensky limits himself in each painting to a single, or at most a few, geometric motifs—ovals, lozenges, or arcs, for example. By repeating and varying the configuration and color of each form he creates dynamic allover patterns of appealing energy. As a group, these paintings convey information with the speed and directness of media images, but here what you get is indeed more than what you immediately see. The works’ straightforward rendering and the striking clarity of their construction are only the main avenues through which the viewer is encouraged to enter and begin to explore the suggestive depths of this artist’s imagination.

Tulcensky can hint at the unknown through the known, offer the unseen through the seen. Untitled, 1984, consists of four rows of tilted ovals, each located inside a lozenge; vertical stripes separate some of the lozenges from each other. Painted alternately yellow and black, the individual forms appear to vibrate on the textured surface, impressing their concrete reality on the viewer. But at the same time the piece has a mysterious side, a metaphorical and metaphysical aspect. The longer one examines the ovals the more one senses the feeling they emanate; in the context of the rhythmical composition, they take on emotive significance as symbols of organic life. Likewise, the more one considers the lozenges the more emblematic of human rationality they seem. And the stripes appear symbols of the synthetic force of time and space. Still, if the viewer’s concerns are formal, this painting and the others on display offer pleasure on that level alone. This is part of the new open attitude of abstract art.

Ronny Cohen