New York

Logan Grider

In his first solo exhibition, Logan Grider showed fifteen intimately sized abstractions, works he intends, according to the press release, to be “representations of sounds, emotional states, conversations, and actions.” That’s a big charge for little paintings, and, to the young artist’s credit, one that many of his canvases fulfill handily. But this achievement is a secondary one. The formal antics of these paintings are so involved (and involving) that synesthesia, allusion, and even depiction as such are superfluous points of reference.

Each composition, oil on canvas over panel, contains a hodgepodge of varicolored, overlapping shapes—hard-edged, rounded, or any of a number of hybrid configurations—that are usually clustered toward the center on monochromatic backgrounds or pushed up against margins. Grider’s palette is full spectrum, his juxtapositions a blend of purpose and extemporaneity. In Chaste (all works 2008), for instance, an aqua oval sits atop a geometric blush- and brick-colored mass, one corner of which splinters into a harlequin patch whose faceting rhymes with a nearby clip of diamond patterning, the mustard-and-pink scheme of which, in turn, is picked up in a neighboring bulbous form—and on and on. Most paintings inventory an assortment of pictorial strategies; Tricked, to choose one example of many, is a virtual handbook. Here color functions autonomously and as a modulating agent (with black taking on both positive and negative values); airless spaces bump up against recessive ones; striped motifs draw attention to surface in certain cases and indicate depth in others; line is used both independently and to delimit form; brushstrokes are by turns expressive and mechanical; figure and ground undergo a series of inversions. But the work is hardly academic, even less so joyless. This, like the others, is an exuberantly confident painting whose small scale seems to have been a means of reining in an over-abundance of ideas.

Grider knows his history; any number of forebears in Cubism or Precisionism might be named, and several of his one-word titles invoke filiation (Progeny, Relation, Marriage). However, with the exception of the lovely painting Courage, whose verdant concentric rings hark back to similar imagery by Thomas Nozkowski or Kenneth Noland or even Arthur Dove, his reckoning with the legacy of modernist abstraction occurs more on the level of method than it does in the register of imagery. The paintings are intensely wrought, with passages often scraped or rubbed to expose strata underneath, and contours of underlayers are evident even in uninflected planes of color. Such processes literalize a grappling with the past (a second set of titles—Stuck, Jam, Stumped—speaks to the challenge) from which Grider seems to have emerged, unencumbered, with his own distinct visual syntax.

Born in 1980, Grider was twenty-five and still finishing his MFA at Yale when entertainment mogul Michael Ovitz purchased one of his works. Such markers of early success, which were just a short time ago earmarks of a buzzing, if bloated, contemporary art market, now seem like cautionary tales, and will likely be fewer and farther between in these leaner times. As others have pointed out, this may be to the good, giving young talents time to develop their practices in the absence of commercial glare. For his part, and on the evidence of this show, Grider is well on his way.

Lisa Turvey