Louise & Randy (“Hotter than ‘Ell”) at Sideshow
October 15 to November 13, 2011
319 Bedford Avenue, between South Second & Third Streets
Williamsburg, (718) 486-8180
While Louise P. Sloane and Randy Bloom come from different painting backgrounds, both have sure, lively senses of color and color harmony, amply living up to the show’s title. “Hotter than ‘Ell” is the name of a 1934 jazz melody by Fletcher Henderson.
Sloane’s canvases have been compared to tablets, like those upon which the Ten Commandments were supposedly inscribed. This is not only because of to their rigidly rectilinear composition, but also because their many narrow and arrow–straight rows of squiggly lines (created by squeezing paint through the nozzle of a pastry tube) resemble cursive writing. Though too freely formed to be legible, they still convey a sense of linguistic message. The overall configuration of these paintings is so simple as to seem minimalist, except that few minima artists used the eye-popping color that Sloane employs. Each painting (acrylic upon steel, aluminum or wood) is composed of four squares, one in each corner, with a fifth square in the center.
In most cases, the four squares on the periphery have horizontal rows of squiggled paint, while the square in the center has vertical rows. An undercoat of contrasting (or complimentary) color was laid down before the squiggles were applied, and a third layer of paint covers up most of the original (muted) color of the squiggles. Some of the layers beneath peep through, however, and, because of the thickness of the paint, the effect is like a tapestry. Typical of the hot colors that Sloane loves is Red Red Orange Square (2010) with crimson and scarlet in the periphery, and a center of even hotter orange. But she can also do cool colors. The smaller Howl into Spring (2007), displayed in the window of the gallery, has two shades of grassy green in its periphery, with a center of electric blue. Whether warm, cool, or a combination of both, the effect is hypnotic, almost magical.
Bloom creates paintings more like windows, offering the viewer a vista into wide open space. Indeed, the space suggested is so open that it can seem a bit unsettling, like a voyage upon uncharted seas. Upon solid fields of one color, the artist superimposes designs in contrasting colors. The design combines two, three or four long framing lines around the edges, with a small rectangle (usually blue) in the center, and the outlines of four even smaller squares floating in a semi-circle around it (or, alternatively, four raised jewel-like blobs of paint). No two compositions are identical, although the images all clearly belong to the same family, and are mostly made by acrylic brushed onto canvas with a highly traditional brush.
Bloom also works with warm, cool and combinations of both. On the warm side is Clown Around (2011). The red of its field is quieter than the reds that Sloane employs, but more transparent, hinting at a darker undercoat beneath. Three framing lines of bluish green nearly circumscribe this field, emphasizing the resemblance to a window while suggesting a floating feeling. The small open squares of yellow, blue, pink and orange also seem to float. In the cool category is a smaller, witty painting, So What (2011). Here a field of ice blue clings to the canvas; at its edges, raw canvas shows through. Then the painting is framed all the way around, not once but twice, with navy-blue lines. The tilted square in the middle is framed with navy blue and filled in with slate blue inside. The four little floating ovals (blue, green, yellow, and pink) are each surrounded with their own individual frames of navy blue, while the small square could almost be a person surveying them. It’s like the diagram of a picture gallery, inside a picture.
These artists share a devotion to color, and also to jazz, as there is rhythm and cadence in each set of paintings. But the deeper reason Sloane and Bloom have been paired is that they offer two ways of showing that art doesn’t need to be shrill or sensational in order to command attention, that it can provide emotional release through beauty alone.print