Magazine article Artforum International

Frank Ammerlaan: Upstream Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Frank Ammerlaan: Upstream Gallery

Article excerpt

There's something unsettling about the beauty of Frank Ammerlaan's paintings. Their surfaces look almost like pools of oil suspended on water: Hallucinatory rainbow colors form voluptuous clouds that are delicate, all-encompassing, sublime. Yet their obvious dependence on chance raises the question of what their beauty means. To make the works in his recent untitled series (all 2012), for example, Ammerlaan, who graduated from London's Royal College of Art last year, first blackens his canvases with acrylic paint, then deposits them in a bath of water with an undisclosed mixture of chemicals, from which they emerge with his signature, stunning iridescent color effects. Is the aesthetic appeal of Ammerlaan's work simply that of a rainbow or lightning bolt, or has the artist successfully co-opted the forces of nature to create meaning?

This tension was the prevailing theme in Ammerlaan's exhibition "Day's End," named after Gordon Matta-Clark's 1975 video of changing levels of sunlight in a deserted building on the Hudson River at sunset. Like Matta-Clark, Ammerlaan explores elusive phenomena such as light and perception and enjoys testing the limits of his control over them. For example, one of his black canvases at first appears almost monochromatic. But look long enough under the right light, and just under the dark surface you will discover two intense clouds of color that imbue the piece with a remarkable depth. Ammerlaan thematizes the tension between the legibility won by focused attention and the impenetrable chaos of chance effects in a number of canvases in which he lays nearly monochromatic color clouds over very fine lines in sparse, minimalist forms. …

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