ThresholdMore at weekly.citypaper.com
Threshold, App’s current solo exhibition at Goya Contemporary, enjoyed a crowded and successful opening, as anticipated, but is undoubtedly best as a solitary viewing experience. Consisting of eight new, large-scale paintings and a handful of works on paper, Threshold is a quiet, meditative exhibition that forgoes the acute angles of his recent paintings in favor of rectangular forms and a comfortable symmetry. App’s subtle hues of muted grays, greens, and muffled purples hug expansive, central planes of black and white, which the artist refers to as “portals.” This description is fitting, as the layering and perspective appear to shift as viewers stand before them. These slight vibrations recall Mark Rothko, and the obsessively neat surfaces find company with finish-fetish artists like John McCracken.
Goya Contemporary Director Amy Eva Raehse explains that these new works are in dialogue with a number of App’s older series, including the homage paintings and vessels, which the artist recently revisited in preparation for a 2013 retrospective at the Katzen Museum in Washington, D.C. His oeuvre of the past decade shows small shifts in his formalist rigor, a fixation on parallel lines and rectangular forms bending into triangles and angular arrangements. In some works, rounded arcs swoop through otherwise hard-edged arrangements. After re-examining and documenting the older works for the forthcoming catalog that will accompany the Katzen exhibition, App picked up old threads in his work to create the new series. Compositions once again soften into right angles embodying the simultaneous language of a contemporary computer screen, with window-like layering and a modernist sensibility. Emanating a soft, central glow through the play of paint color, many of the pieces seem to refer to digital screens, stages, and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s long-exposure photographs of movie theaters. In particular, “Agora” and “Proscenium” most resemble monolithic projector televisions, with white, squarish planes resting on narrower black rectangles. The suggestion that these screens are off, the stage empty, adds a clever narrative to these otherwise abstract works: the contemporary substitute for meditation and tranquility versus the tranquility that can be achieved through painting.
In its title, Threshold conveys the spiritual and transportive nature of these new works, which are deceptive in their simple compositions. An intangible space opens up in the picture planes, existing for brief moments between colors and shapes and the slight translucence of the acrylic. From a distance it becomes hard to imagine that these works have a human creator, but this illusion dissolves with closer inspection. Slight imperfections, be they small areas of color inconsistency or minute wavers of a line, firmly root these works in the hand and the painting process. While the pieces in Threshold are more pared down than previous series in App’s career, both in composition and color variety, the end results are no less complex.