Friday, August 29th, 2008

Mike Nemire: HiColor

Galeria Janet Kurnatowski|
205 Norman Avenue
718 383 9380

June 20th – July 27th, 2008

Mike Nemire Frequency 2008 oil on Canvas, 11 x 18 inches
Mike Nemire, Frequency 2008 oil on Canvas, 11 x 18 inches

Visiting Mike Nemire’s painting exhibition at Janet Kurnatowski’s salon-like gallery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in the dead heat of summer does not provide conventional respite from the weather.  Instead of cooling your mind and body, the seven paintings radiate endless refreshment for your eye’s retina—from the familiar shores of red, yellow and blue, into the hairier neon reaches of a full color palette.

For such a “light” genre of abstract painting Op Art carries a wide range of cultural and social ramifications.  From its kitsch value as the 1960s bedfellow of groovy fashion and design, to its inclusive democracy as an art form that can be easily “taken in” by anyone with eyes. Nemire’s paintings seem detached from this history, partly due to the artist’s employment of computer programs like Photoshop to find bizarre color spectrums and combinations. The coolness of this gesture is countered by a tight handling of the painted surface, and the complexity of optical patterns is nicely squared-off by wide canvas sides.

Each painting is a formal variation, in dimension and color, on grid systems. “RGB” (24” x 24”) is the most successful painting in the group in terms of creating space and movement from a dim center towards the brighter colors of the sides.  Bands of luminous, red, green and blue are represented on a full spectrum from their glowing, saturated zenith, to a dim commonality of murky hues.  The dim to bright contrast of the color weaves lends added weight to the painting’s uniform tonal center.  The effect is one of turning a dial to a neutral hum on a loud stereo system.

Exactly how modern (or ancient) is this color-grid patterning? Is it a pixilated movement of squares covering a virtual space into infinity—or a cloth weave pattern as timeless and mundane as plaid. With titles ranging from “Frequency” to “Harlequin,” we are expected to find affirmation in both answers. “Harlequin” (16”x17”), is an almost square canvas with carnival color combinations neatly subdivided by white strips.   A boxed group of red, purple and blue, morphs by gradient degrees into an equally electric group of green, turquoise and yellow. The brightness and compact size of “Frequency” (11”x18”) gives off a concentrated sense of real heat.  The painting pulses in waves of color: hot orange becomes cool lavender, cadmium red bleeds into toxic green. In “Zeros and Ones” the notes of individual color are so miniscule that the effect is like the static fuzz glimmering off a television screen. These are paintings that should be viewed from all angles, like a hologram the image will easily slide from a straightforward surface plane to an optical illusion.

The material adherence to oil on canvas and the use of tape to grid colors, keeps the paintings within a lineage of hard-edged, perceptually minded abstraction. Mondrian, Victor Vasarely, and Alfred Jensen come to mind as fellow painter-scientists who practiced within a personal system of colors to investigate mathematical, mystical and optical space in art. Nemire doesn’t rely on computer color programs to pump symbolic or narrative blood into his work, but instead employs them as one more prop in the performance of painting. It is a testament to the wide range of color and pattern that the paintings are able to reference both the noisy funk of 1970s and ‘80s analog technology, as well as the hyper slickness of contemporary digital image-making.

Nemire’s paintings carry the same obscure emotional charge as video color test bands, glowing stripes of pure color that signal a pause before the start of the video’s narrative.  The paintings are all variations on that “before” moment, endowing it with resonance as the primary subject. It remains to be seen to what end this young artist will continue to align his tremendous painting skills with the joyful endgame of color perception. For the time being, however, it is a satisfyingly balanced union.