New York

Michael Kessler

Jack Tilton Gallery

For Michael Kessler, painting is both a symbolic expression and an affirmation of self. Since the early ’80s nature has served as a source for his organic abstract vocabulary.The paintings in this recent show reveal a striking new clarity of vision. Working in a large vertical format on wooden supports, Kessler has succeeded in breathing a refreshing vitality into his images. The associations with landscape elements so prominent in the early work have become part of a broader visual vocabulary touching on complex visceral and psychological concerns. This was as much the case for Helix Patriarch (all works 1990), the most overtly landscapelike composition of the group, as for Primeval Alliance a work that depicts a suggestive bodylike cavity.

With Helix Patriarch the shape-in-shape configuration dominating the composition brings to mind natural geological openings and depressions. Yet any associations with lakes, rivers, crevices, and gorges give way to a multitude of other associations. At this point the title kicks in, suggesting mathematical and genetic resonances. These disciplines represent fundamental vehicles with which to organize the universe: mathematics deals with the description of abstract conditions, and genetics is bound up with physical constructs.

Primeval Alliance features a pouchlike shape with two linear extensions emanating from top and bottom that stretches the length of the canvas. This blue figure is shown against a textured luminous orange ground aglow with flickering streaks of white. Here the association with internal organs of the body, such as kidneys, provokes meditations on the endless capacity of the abstract field to nurture metaphorical discourse.

Ronny Cohen