James Stroud

Barbara Krakow Gallery

To make the paintings in his latest exhibition, “Linear Strategies,” James Stroud secured square aluminum panels to a metal rack like those used by commercial printers and applied blue, red, and yellow oil-based printing inks in grids and stripes with a roller. Despite the limitations of this procedure and the exacting rigor of his techniques, borrowed from printmaking (he is also a master printer), the geometric abstractions that result are surprisingly luminous and seductive.

Six of the seven grand installations on view were long rectangular arrangements of the painted aluminum squares (all works 2001). Mounted on hidden wood supports, the twenty-by-twenty-inch panels seemed to hover about an inch from the white wall. The hard edges of the aluminum and the precisely painted stripes, rectangles, and squares are systematically linear, but the layered surfaces appear to glow. The two largest works, Janus I and Janus II (named after the two-headed Roman god), each comprise two horizontal, symmetrical rows of seven panels. Centered on each panel is a large square of ultramarine, similar in tone and effect to Yves Klein’s IKB monochromes. Surrounded by magenta, green, and orange stripes (the result of laying a blue glaze over highly pigmented bands of red and yellow), these blue squares dominated the installations and gave rise to architectonic patterns that unified and activated the arrangements: In Janus I, the blue squares steadily decrease in size as you move from the inner to the outer panels; in Janus II, the order is reversed so that the squares are largest on the outermost panels. (The artist referred to the side-by-side installation of the two pieces as “looking into the future and the past.”) In other works, such as Potemkin and End Games, the blue squares become red-and-blue grids; some, like Orpheus, are distinctly plaidlike and less dynamic.

The seventh work on view, Untitled, perhaps suggests a new direction. Five panels hung in an overlapping vertical arrangement: The bottom panel leaned two inches out from the wall; slipped behind it was the bottom edge of the next panel, which itself leaned out from the wall to allow the panel above to slip behind it; and so on. Stroud and an assistant used an orbital sander to create metallic swirls on the surfaces. He then sprayed the back of each plate with orange paint so that an incandescent glow was reflected onto the wall behind. The artist nicknamed the piece “Judd-lite,” for its obvious references to the late Minimalist master’s vertical arrangements of anodized aluminum and Plexiglas. While all Stroud's work exists somewhere between painting, print, and sculpture, Untitled seems to represent a move away from his highly technical printmaking strategies and toward the methods and means of painting and sculpture.

Francine Koslow Miller