Thursday, April 1st, 2004

Victor Pesce

Elizabeth Harris Gallery
529 West 20th Street
New York NY 10003
212 263 9666

March 11 to April 10 , 2004

a version of this article first appeared in The New York Sun on Thursday, April 8, 2004

Victor Pesce Pile of Boxes 2002 oil on canvas, 12 x 18 inches Courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

Victor Pesce, Pile of Boxes 2002 oil on canvas, 12 x 18 inches Courtesy Elizabeth Harris Gallery

Victor Pesce is a sly abstractionist who rides the realist rail. His pared-down imagery refers to real objects but just barely. His interest is elsewhere.

Bottles, cups, boxes and pans avoid all suggestion of the culture of the table or human purpose. Devoid of detail and context, Mr. Pesce’s repertory of prosaic items serves as proxy for conceptual categories. His subjects are archetypes more than objects at hand. Imagery is pared to the bone without losing its architectural solidity.

Space is ambiguous, subordinated to color. Hints of shadow are partly teases, partly design elements to avoid monotony in near-monotone color zones. Color is where the excitement lies in these motifs. It has a bite that is as satisfying as it is unnatural. Acidic blues, yellows and greens are modulated by subtle transitions and relationships that act on the retina before we become aware of them.

The appeal of Mr. Pesce’s painting lies in his sense of scale and proportion. Single objects are endowed with monumentality, thanks to strong intuitions of the right ratio between an object and the color field surrounding it. In this show, he ventures onto new territory with amplified canvases that risk surrendering scale to mere size.

His striking “Piles of Boxes” (2003) or “A Matter of Time” (2003) succeed because the format, while larger than usual, retains Mr. Pesce’s characteristic sense of measure. In the first, four boxes rise to a cunning pyramid that is more stable than it first appears . In the second, everything depends on the rightness of the intervals between three rectangles. The pleasure of these paintings resides in the internal balance of simple parts.

But when a modest pictorial concept stretches to five feet in length, as in “Seams, Corners, Shadows & Reflections” (2002), the effect slackens. Upscaling increases the visual demand on surface variations, a requirement at cross purposes with Mr. Pesce’s uniform paint application. Not enough happens to keep the eye moving across the canvas.