Pointing a Telescope at the Sun at MINUS SPACE
August 6 to September 17, 2011
Open Fridays and Saturdays, 12 to 6 pm
98 4th Street
Room 204 (Buzzer #28)
In April 2006 a three-year-old, web-only virtual gallery called Minus Space made the leap from pixels to bricks and mortar, launching an old-fashioned, white-walled gallery in a nondescript brick building in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. 98 Fourth Street boasted all of 175 square feet of exhibition space. Minus Space began to present an ambitious program relating to the pictorial strategy of “reductive art” and proceeded to establish itself as a primary voice, out of proportion to its diminutive size, in the field of concept-driven abstraction.
Five and a half years and dozens of shows later, Minus Space has mounted its last exhibition in Gowanus, and will soon relocate to a gallery-filled building in Dumbo. “Pointing a Telescope at the Sun,” on view through September 17, embodies both the felicities and limitations of the gallery’s physical restrictions. Bringing together one canvas apiece by five painters associated with the Hunter College Color School, the show’s necessarily understated elegance prompts speculation about the ground that might be covered by an expanded version seen in more capacious surroundings.
The exhibition’s title signals an empirical approach to the perception of the colors of the spectrum. The pictorial space of Doug Ohlson’s PU-011 (2004-2006) is primarily a function of its palette; compositionally neutral, vertical bars of variously saturated colors (including flamboyant pinks and electric blues) visually advance from a surrounding ochre-ish field while nuzzling or buzzing the painting’s edges. A gradual shift in the scale of the brush stroke establishes the space of Robert Swain’s Untitled 7-25-6 x 11-25-6 x 23-25-6 (2011). Restricted to three equally saturated hues—red, purple and pale blue-green—the precisely positioned marks diminish in size from the upper right corner to the lower left and imply distance, compression, atomization.
The expansive scale of Vincent Longo’s Four Time (2006) transcends its compact size, its earth-bound palette of sullied yellows, neutralized greens and a pale terra cotta pink somehow achieving a weightless evanescence. Sanford Wurmfeld’s II-27 #1+B (V-RO/N-Y) (2006) gently animates a half-inch wide grid. Subtle shifts in saturation and hue from one unit to the next form a veil or membrane of exquisite delicacy. With Untitled (2011), in which a square field of vertical bands is abruptly cleft by a shallow, oblique seam, Gabriele Evertz continues her investigation of how the presence of spectral colors (in this case, the yellow/orange/red range) affects the perception of gray.
Matthew Deleget and Rossana Martinez, the husband-and-wife team behind Minus Space, met in 1994 while students at Pratt Institute. While their artistic means differed—he was (and is) primarily a painter, she a sculptor and printmaker (now working with installation and performance)—they shared a conceptual orientation and a desire to foment dialogue among artists that would go beyond the chitchat of openings and become “a platform for community-building.”
The site went live in 2003 and in short order saw the “highly local” response from a handful of Brooklyn painters expand to become global in scope. Building on the social premise of their project, Deleget and Martinez hosted weekend-long shows in their Brooklyn apartment. In 2004 the couple met painter Don Voisine, soon to be elected president of American Abstract Artists, at an opening at Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn Heights. “I first heard about Matthew from Chris Martin,” recalls Voisine. “He said he’d met a young guy into minimalist stuff and he was starting a web site dedicated to that kind of work… [Deleget and Martinez] were interested in certain kinds of art, and saw little of a like-minded community around them so they set about creating one and discovered there was a like-minded need all around the world. I drew inspiration from them for ideas to revitalize the AAA. Matthew and Rossana helped me drag the AAA into the latter part of the twentieth century.”
The pair outfitted their Gowanus studio to accommodate exhibitions, and began presenting artists’ projects in 2006. The Minus Space archive includes exhibitions by the likes of Michael Brennan, Linda Francis, Li Trincere and Mark Dagley, among many others. A flat file has been established, containing work by over 70 artists. (The author is among them). Outside-curated projects include “Escape From New York,” an influential “suitcase” show of very small (read: portable) works that traveled to three venues in New Zealand and Australia, including Sydney Non Objective. In 2007 Deleget curated “Machine Learning,” seen in New York at The Painting Center before it hit the road. Comprising paintings by Henry Brown, Terry Haggerty, Gilbert Hsaio, and Douglas Melini, the show proposed a breed of “pattern painting for the Information Age.
The Minus Space suffix, “reductive art,” may suggest a minimalist orientation but Deleget is at pains to dispel that notion. He objects to being characterized by a term such as Minimalism, which is “carried forward by public usage but is inaccurate to describe where our interests lie.” If anything, the gallery’s vigorous advocacy of abstraction is set within a context inflected by social utility and engagement, not art-for-art’s-sake. Examples are recent shows of vintage LP album covers designed by Bauhaus stalwart Josef Albers; the art-historically based, map-like paintings of Loren Monk; and the mathematically-derived work of the famously networked and networking Michelle Grabner. The common thread is pictorial incident as information—what Deleget calls “strategies for saying more with less.”
Reductive-art-watchers await indications of how the new, much larger Minus Space at 111 Front Street will affect the operation’s overall dynamic. The gallery will be open to the public four days a week, adding Wednesdays and Thursdays to the current Friday and Saturday hours. The inaugural show, titled “Ted Stamm: Paintings,” opens the evening of Friday, September 23. Its press release argues that the work of this New York painter, who died at age 39 in 1984, “anticipated the conceptual strategies and material inquiries of subsequent generations of artists who came of age in NYC during the past three decades.” With two-and-a-half times their accustomed exhibition space, Deleget and Martinez will have plenty of elbow room with which to make that case.print