New York

Rande Barke

Gabrielle Bryers Gallery

For his solo show in New York, painter Rande Barke presented a series of works that allowed the audience to revel in the suggestive side of abstraction.Each painting measured 32 by 25 inches; some were executed in oil wash on paper mounted on linen and others were painted directly on linen. Though both the format and method used were straightforward,the paintings were immediately engaging drawing the viewer in.Installed at chest height here, they appeared to relate to the body. On an unconscious level, then, this put the viewer in closer proximity to them, an intimacy underscored by the startling directness of the imagery itself.

Barke covers each canvas with dense layers of paint, and so deft is his control of the oil medium that the compositions seem to take shape before our eyes, naturally—that is, almost by magic—from the set of palpable qualities that he has chosen to emphasize. Nothing about the compositions appears forced or phony. In Barke’s most successful paintings in this show—Untitled #21, Another False Ending, Untitled #4, and Short Romantic Excerpt, all 1985—a poetic aura resonates through the surface. Each of these paintings is capable of sending one’s thoughts racing in associative directions. In Untitled #21 the associative trigger is the mesmerizing textural pattern created by dark passages shot through with flecks of color and light, bringing to mind forms traveling through deep space. In Untitled #4, these passages have a more earthbound quality about them, due to the geologic configurations the mass of chopy strokes fall into; by contrast, in Short Romantic Excerpt they are effective symbols of the mystery of night, and are evocative of James McNeill Whistler’s “Nocturnes.” The comparison with Whistler is appropriate, because this show was also about good painting. And good painting is achieved more often than not by artists who are independent enough to say what they have to say in their own way. Like Whistler, Barke has show n he is already one of them.

Ronny Cohen