New York

Mark Schwartz

Jayne H. Baum Gallery

The canvases Mark Schwartz exhibited here hover captivatingly between abstraction and landscape; for him issues of pure painting and the varied phenomena of nature are equally worthy of investigation. Working in a broad, gestural manner, Schwartz imbues the thick and tactile surfaces of his canvases with a primal energy in keeping with the elemental imagery he favors.

One painting (all works untitled, 1990) clearly reflects these dual concerns. At first glance the work appears to be about the interrelationship of surface, form, and space, yet the more closely the white edges of the semicircle wedged into the black field of this painting are scrutinized, the greater the sense that the overall sensation of illumination is not purely abstract; the light emerging from darkness brings to mind the setting sun or the shadows cast by the moon when blocked by clouds.

In another work, the relationship of positive and negative space is reversed; the sketchy upright shapes silhouetted against a white ground suggest plants in a landscape. Still, the painting’s physical quality as a painted object is strong enough to overwhelm any tendency to dwell on literary associations. Much the same applies to the experience of viewing the huge unstretched canvases that were also shown. For example, a painting with a horizon line and a dark earthy palette certainly recalls a landscape; once again, however, the abstract qualities—color, mass, and texture—figure prominently. The extremely high horizon line seems to suggest that Schwartz is representing the underground, the dark and mysterious internal structures of nature beneath the surface.

Ronny Cohen