New York

Avri Ohana

Frank Bustamante Gallery

In these landscapes Avri Ohana evokes subtle atmospheres of shimmering light, using gestures that have a sketchy energy. The Morocco-born, Israel-raised Ohana began as a figurative painter before turning to the semiabstract geometrical groupings seen here. He begins by applying wild sprays of acrylic paint onto canvas or paper. In Napa Valley (all works 1988), one square of the patchwork composition contains splattered, unblended paint, as if the artist intended to leave a visible trace of the process. Tiberia Kineret features an explosion of color hovering over a skyline of triangles and trapezoids. Festival Night contains dots of color that suggest fireworks against a darkened sky. Typically, Ohana works the initial pigments into the canvas, building up layers of muted hues. In Megido Kineret, rectangles of mottled green and rust overlap like so many squares of semitransparent paper in a Kurt Schwitters collage. Paint accumulates to create surfaces resembling walls that have been painted too many times, the streaks and strokes of successive applications clearly visible.

Some of Ohana’s most successful works are the smaller compositions on paper, in which scraps of corrugated cardboard are also worked in and painted over, the whole then scored with wiry lines of charcoal. In The Negev, horizontal bands create a hieroglyphic text of patterns suggesting mountains, plains, and flecked skies. Elsewhere the remnants of studio life—matches and matchbooks, pieces of tape—are incorporated into the paintings.

While none of Ohana’s techniques are new or radical, a distinct and assured sensibility informs his work. He can imply the atmosphere of seemingly amorphous skies and terrain, and can create exacting records of light hitting buildings at different hours of the day. Despite the consistency of his technique, Ohana evokes a sure sense of place for locales as far flung as Greece, New Mexico, and Egypt.

Ohana, who now lives in New York, also reveals a distinctly urban esthetic. The spaciousness of his landscapes is often compressed by rectangles that fill in the background and frame the looser brushstrokes. Ohana’s compositions are free of more specific references that might indicate scale or localize the scene. They are sometimes empty but never desolate; for Ohana, twilight is a vision of the sun sinking in a dazzle of light.

Lois E. Nesbitt