new-york

Gary Stephan

Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

Acknowledging Alexander Pope’s dictum that an artist’s freedom lies within the framework of convention and rule, Gary Stephan constructs all of the imagery in his new paintings from a limited set of three curvilinear templates. Their true scale and shape are visible in the painting Mantle (all works 1989) and in the upper registers of Interior with Window, where Stephan presents their silhouettes as if they had been stenciled on the canvas’ surface. From this finite vocabulary Stephan generates infinite pictorial possibilities.

The templates have no intrinsic symbolic meaning, nor are they treated as autonomous things in themselves; they generate signification only through their interaction with each other, the surface plane, and color. Even in Mantle, where Stephan presents the three templates as an index of his painting’s vocabulary, the final composition is more than a catalogue of formal

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