Friday, April 1st, 2005

Henry Finkelstein: New Paintings

Kraushaar Galleries
724 Fifth Avenue

Until April 30

A few floors below in the same gallery building, the exuberant landscapes of Henry Finkelstein, a painter in his mid-40s, make an intriguing contrast with Ms. Blaine’s. Mr. Finkelstein’s bold palette convincingly evokes the atmosphere of the French countryside he paints, his rich hues maintaining their full colorfulness even in the extreme lights and darks.

Despite his looser, larger strokes, his spaces are persuasively rendered; no less than Blaine, the artist knows how to hold down a distant point in space with a sudden note of blue or green. In “Pond, Gray Day,” a cacophony of hues—greens, browns, blues—cluster in the foreground as reflections on a pond’s surface; so nuanced is the artist’s sense of light that these colors instantly hold as a single plane stretching luminously into the mid-distance.

Mr. Finkelstein tends to be less patient than Ms. Blaine, less inclined to linger and savor an object’s location to see what it portends. But his extravagant brushwork delivers, energetically, the effect of the frittering of clouds in a wide sky, the craggy tower of a tree trunk, and the scruffy edges of late afternoon shadows on grass.

Ms. Blaine’s coherent attack makes it all seem effortless. In fact, in the same canvas she then moves on to secondary rhythms, elaborating the table’s full expanse and surroundings without diluting the first. Overlapping colors, conveying the soft sheen of china, the acrid yellow transparency of a jar, and finally the quiet luminosity of a tumbler’s column of water, turns the picture into a busy plunge into space. The distance from near to far edges of the table becomes almost supernaturally tangible.

The artist’s confident touch and lucid colors lent themselves especially well to watercolor. Of the several here, “ Platform Garden ” (1988) is especially impressive; its washes are at once limpid in hue and muscular in outline. A handful of drawings round out the show, and their vigorous attack, exploiting both contours and tonal planes, remind us how thoroughly Ms. Blaine integrated processes of drawing and painting.

Paintings of an interior with a figure, and of a still life with fish, are capable but perhaps not up to Blaine ‘s highest level of energetic inquiry. But many others are, and the viewer can savor Blaine’s response to each motif — whether a view across rooftops, the coiled form of a sleeping cat, or the Hudson River at sunset — as she found new ways to make every element contribute to an unfolding impression.

“A minute in the world’s life passes!” Cézanne once exclaimed. “To paint it in its reality and forget everything for that!” Blaine ‘s best work shows this intense interest in her visible surroundings, as well as her unaffected virtuosity. For her, too, a discipline of forms liberated a deeper search for the real.