Magazine article Artforum International

Ross Neher

Magazine article Artforum International

Ross Neher

Article excerpt

DAVID BEITZEL GALLERY

Translating broad sweeps of atmospheric space and light into densely corporeal surfaces, Ross Neher's abstract paintings, for all their maestoso formality and distance, touch on powerful and disturbing paradoxes of contemporary painting and its critical reception. Neher's is a thoughtfully historicizing approach. A reading of his theoretical essays confirms what the paintings themselves intimate: that they are the fruit of a principled conservatism in esthetic matters. They attempt to graft the compositional elaboration of high European painting back onto aspects of American abstraction--the equalizing grid is rarely far from the surface of these paintings--which was once supposed to have displaced that tradition.

Perhaps because he holds so strictly to his sense of visuality as both the origin and destination of painting, Neher's work ends up reaffirming, instead, the blindness at the heart of vision as well as the synesthesia at its margin. These paintings constantly cue their viewer to see them in terms of naturalisti composition, though one that is rendered fluid, unstable, volatile. Figurative reference is almost completely effaced, and a connection to the tradition of sublime landscape is only guardedly acknowledged, mostly through the intensitie of bright color that suddenly but inevitably sweep out of moody shadowings. However, unlike most abstract painting with naturalistic space, in which one detects little more than an uneasy compromise or an irresolute eclecticism, in Neher's paintings one senses a very specific perceptual/conceptual operation at work. …

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