New York

Jan Groth

Diane Brown Gallery

For the past thirty years Norwegian artist Jan Groth has been producing drawings and tapestries characterized by bold, sparse compositions. In the drawings, single black crayon lines score vast fields of white, while in the tapestries (executed with the assistance of Benedikte Groth) the scheme is inverted. Here Groth presents five recent tapestries from his “Sign” series, dominated by single hooks and V-shapes suggesting proud, oversized calligraphic signatures. It is the four smaller crayon drawings, however, that steal the show. In these modest efforts one senses Groth’s edgy, troubled hand moving across the white surface like someone tracing lines in the snow with a stick. The forms that Groth sketches resemble saplings or lonely shoots of grass bending in the wind, arched over like halves of misshapen valentine hearts.

Groth’s is not the sort of work that rewards art-historical exegesis. Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism have both left their mark on his sensibility, and one might as readily invoke the spirits of artists Groth refers to as influences or “confirmations”: Giorgio Morandi, Isamu Noguchi, Alberto Giacometti. Some critics have noted similarities between Groth’s compositions and the Northern European landscape paintings to which he was exposed early in life. Groth, however, is not consciously part of any contemporary school or historical tradition; rather, he has assimilated whatever served his focused and essentially self-directed program. Through impressive discipline and concentration Groth manages to create abstract works of considerable emotional depth. Seemingly casual scrawls plummet into the depths of anguish or peak in exhilaration reminding us that there is nothing simple about any human gesture. Groth’s repetition of the same forms, within specific series and across his oeuvre, illustrates that one can repeat something over and over again without ever saying the same thing twice.

Lois E. Nesbitt