New York

Robert Feintuch

Daniel Newburg Gallery

Although Robert Feintuch’s eight predominantly black paintings initially suggest the somber notes of a Gregorian chant, they eventually reveal the subtle complexity of a fugue. These works are very much about listening, but also about painting and the connection between the two. Six of the eight are massive, vertical rectangles, and they all contain between one and three images of disembodied ears that hover in various arrangements. Small, flat, and white, these ears and the random visual blips that surround them emerge from the dark fields with the anonymity of Xerox reproductions to become distanced allegories of communication. These receptive, black surfaces populated with attentive ears surround the viewer like so many confessionals, highlighting the give-and-take dynamic that is activated by any good painting.

In Ears, Upside Down and Close, 1991, a couple of ears huddle together, while in Brain, 1990, two more are isolated at opposite ends of the composition. Such positionings lend these scenes a quirky, anthropomorphic quality that is both funny and profound. This is especially true of Narcissus and Small Narcissus, both 1991; in each, a single ear is amusingly echoed by a mirror image directly below it. By replacing the gazing eye with the listening ear, Feintuch points beyond the cliched pathos of needy self-misrecognition to the possibility of self-knowledge through a meditative turn inward.

Language makes a brief cameo appearance in Cracked Word and the larger Ear, Word, both 1990; in each, “WORD” appears upside down, transformed from a signifier to an opaque image equivalent to the ever-present, abstract blips of frozen sound. This is Feintuch’s passing nod to the metalinguistic mode he has left behind in order to investigate, on a more elemental level, the painted image’s ability to map the intersection between self and world.

Jenifer P. Borum