Monday, January 1st, 2001

Gary Stephan

Baumgartner Gallery
418 West 15 Street, New York NY 10011

January 20 – February 21, 2001

I’m always curious to see what Gary Stephan’s next show will offer.  I may or may not get hooked, but his consistent probe into the activity of abstract painting is usually persuasive.   His current show has no hooks but satisfies completely. It is direct and unfussy.

Though Stephan uses clearly defined edges, I’m reminded of Rothko’s early floating blobs and fields.   Instead of towing the integrity of the picture plane or peddling push/pull, Stephan stacks, contains and holds his forms, somehow tethering them with borders without relinquishing their buoyancy as they elusively slip and glide off.  These paintings embody subtle contradictions,  They are slow and generous, pressured and expansive, heraldic and peripheral, brash and incremental, static and in flux, abutting and passing. In light of abstraction’s recent tendency toward presentation, preciousness and premeditiation,  it’s refreshing to see Stephan’s direct, bare-bones, matter-of-fact hamfistedness.