New York

Michael Mazur

Mary Ryan Gallery

Referring to an earlier exhibition of prints, Michael Mazur reflected that his skill with color comes from “observation heightened by imagination controlled by memory.” The same could be said of this show of paintings, his most abstract works to date: while taken from nature, these images—which are perhaps most easily described as branched forms emerging from, crossing over, or residing within a deep and complicated light—possess a macabre excess that is controlled only by the artist’s remarkable awareness of the tension between two- and three-dimensionality, between painterliness and representation, between pattern and depth of field.

Japanese painting has been a primary influence on Mazur in the creation of these paintings. He presents a quintessence of nature without insisting on a Western ideal of perspective. Rather, the works seem to present many views of nature at once, a range of phenomena without a unifying focus. The result is a wonderful, shimmery experience of illusion, pattern, and light.

Unlike the more heroically scaled paintings that invite comparisons to the work of Ross Bleckner and Pat Steir, the small paintings allow Mazur’s virtuosity to find its fullest expression. These works employ a singular and mesmerizing technique of monotype on synthetic silk, in which multiple colors of oil-ink are forced into the material with the assistance of a printing press, then overlaid with another layer of oil-ink painted on by hand. In Snow Pine, 1994, the silk gives a simple study in blacks and grays a richly luminous quality creating a pearly, close-grained haze similar to that achieved by sfumato or a rich mezzotint. What might these magical novelties look like under the changing conditions of natural light? These small, intricate works remain a lingering mystery.

Justin Spring