Alan Stocker

Pomeroy Purdy Gallery

Those who accuse abstract art of inhumanity are surely right. Yet what they miss is that absolute nonobjectivity is never actually achieved, but remains, even in the most unrelenting formalism, a mere asymptote of the mind, its fantasy of victory over the body. In reality, the recurrence of resemblance is never overcome, and the autonomous properties and logic of color and configuration serve only to catalyze other capabilities of the imagination. To be sure, the elements of painting exact their own demands, yet each formal shift is but an altered threshold toward a new image-advent.

Alan Stocker creates form out of the ore of primordial color. His images reach just as far as the cusp of a likeness, where recognition gets caught among lustrous deposits of pigment. The paintings imply a subterranean genesis, a cave or mine where the rock-face wrinkles into phantasmagoric life. They are like wax tablets that have indexed numerous impressions; if they were to have a sound, it might be a murmuring of many voices—multifarious, indistinct, and disturbing. Although these paintings demonstrate an expressionist interplay between process and image, they are closer in spirit to that chiasm of formal image and imagerial form that preoccupied Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

Despite their intricate tumult of images, the paintings show clear evidence of the trace of making—sometimes a liquid pooling or merging, sometimes a frottage or transfer. The impression is of a dense surface—paint upon paint—yet without the simply condensed like hoar and lichen upon the damp walls of a cave. Then, fitfully, the images appear. They are as indefinite as the paint-shapes themselves; they merge both into the pigmented ambience and into each other, strange hybrids from an inward experience barely reaching into consciousness. Individually monstrous, often fierce, sad, in turned, ruminative, or threatening, they seem to be caught in the paint-world as figures in a fable. Horses, fish, incubi, goblins, an ass or hare, wounded and desolate orphans, beings in states of tumescence, copulation, and birth: a crowd of incommensurable islands in a sea of vision. One imagines some corresponding slow release of the tales they have to tell. It is part of the pleasure of these paintings that Stocker never finally fixes the fables from his crucible, but leaves them at a point where the beholder is invited to complete the telling.

Brian Hatton