New York

Blake Rayne

“August Evening Walk Out,” an exhibition of new paintings by Blake Rayne, was the final installment in his thematic series “Three of Four Seasons” (following “Autumn Drive,” 1997, and “The Winter Line,” 2000). Skipping spring and diving straight into summer’s extreme tangerines, grapes, and lemon-limes, Rayne’s flavor-enhanced, atmospheric surfaces tempt us with boredom (the beachy kind), emptiness (or the infinite), and the terrors and joys of intoxication. The “August,” “Evening,” and “Fridays” of the paintings’ titles aren’t temporalities you can bank on or calculate, they are events—more like holes or glitches in the controlled time of production. “Walk Out” might be a factory worker’s act of disobedience, a transcendental pilgrimage à la Thoreau, a Situationist dérive, or all three.

Bain de Sans Soleil I and II (all works 2003) are semiconscious glimpses of a lit-up car stereo, fogging the canvas with ghosty greens and glowing red-oranges. A dazzlingly vacant skyscape, Radically Casual Fridays marks out a void of azure and a toxic cloud of fuchsia between fluttering plastic car-lot pennants. Other paintings superimpose country and city views onto more horizonless skies, water, and close-up nature studies. Composed of multiple perspectives within a single frame, they elude stability and confound the viewer’s habit of locating him- or herself in relation to what’s shown. Instead, fragmented and gliding mental states—such as surfing, drunk driving, daydreaming, or remembering—are evoked. Rayne’s summer light, derived from no single pictorial source, is used as much against the objects in his paintings as in their service, taking on a corrosive force that exceeds and ignores the integrity of whatever it exposes. Meanwhile, wandering lines and streaks of pigment are activated at different speeds across the canvas, causing distortions of not only represented space but also represented time. Looking and walking out become bottomless, unfolded events—overdoses of light, times we lose ourselves in and that burn our brains. Rayne’s paintings retrieve unrecognizable, crystalline perceptions from these experiences.

The numbers in the titles of some paintings (e.g., S.P.F. 1–5) play on both sequence and degree of intensity. They indicate thresholds and variations, suggesting a gay science of altered and altering states. The numbers we should see in the car-radio paintings, on the other hand, are blurred out, reminding us that the movements undertaken here cannot be mapped with rational coordinates. Like the Impressionists and Turner before them, but recalled here via an unsentimentalizing, post-Adobe sensibility, Rayne pushes pictorial time and space toward the unpresentable. Nature becomes a crazy screen for tracing out conceptual moves and mental detours. His dynamic, supersaturated surfaces, which never completely cohere as pictures of something, insist that painting, today as much as ever, is a material to see and think the world with. “Three of Four Seasons” presents a cycle that refuses to complete itself. It is a calendar with pages missing, or a modern Book of Hours that doubles as a user’s guide for bailing out of regulated and regulating time.

John Kelsey