New York

Mark Wethli


For all their attention to rendering the truth of objective appearance in meticulous detail, Mark Wethli’s paintings of interiors treat form in a highly abstract manner. Working with rooms he encountered in houses on the campus of Bowdoin College, as well as Belaggio, Italy, he demonstrates how the physical dimensions of space can be manipulated to recreate the more intangible spirit, or feeling, of place.

Though the rooms represented in paintings like Under A Northern Sky, 1992, Blue Angel, 1992, Simple Gifts, 1992, and Como, 1991, are always unoccupied, they are suffused with human presence. Objects of daily use; like the doors and the chair so prominent in Under A Northern Sky, figure their absent owners. The more specific Wethli is about the details—the edges of a chair or the shape of a doorknob—the stronger the curiosity aroused about the inhabitants of these empty rooms. You begin to wonder what lies beyond that which Wethli has chosen to reveal, what might be encountered if you sat in the chair or passed through the doorway connecting the two rooms.

Wethli uses the principles of linear perspective inherent in the traditional representation and construction of interior spaces from the 17th-century Dutch masters to Western domestic architecture. In Simple Gifts, a table with straight legs against a white wall is the featured motif, though a rear wall with a window can be glimpsed off to one side. Patterns of light and shadow, reflecting the configuration of an unseen window, turn the view of the table and front wall into an image that hovers like many of Wethli’s images somewhere between the material and the metaphysical.

Ronny Cohen