Louis Renzoni
Kim Foster Gallery-Feb 21-March 28. 529 W 20th St.

Louis Rezoni’s exhibition at the Kim Foster Gallery is aptly entitled ”Opaque”. Vanitas , refers to a type of still life consisting of a collection of objects that symbolize death — the brevity of human life and the transience of earthly pleasures and achievements (e.g., a human skull, a mirror, and broken pottery). This idea, the still life, or nature morte, is the format for some of the encaustic paintings. In “Long Shadow” there is a dialogue between the translucent fruit and blinding light behind it and the varying opacities and color shifts in the long shadows. He is a painter of light, the varied translucencies are simultaneously delicate and full. While the viewer’s initial engagement is with the grapes in the relatively large still life paintings, the broad color passages in the shadows are compelling in their subtlety.

In the still life paintings the grapes wither away with the picture as a window or simulacra as the fruit decays, “a meditation on death” and transitory nature of things. The show’s title seems to refer to the color shifts in the shadows, the emphasis on darkness. All of the work has a strong interplay between dark and light. How much can be seen in a dark space with blinding light shooting in or intruding?

His inventiveness is at its best when there is a painterly dialogue. In “Vines” a figurative work, there are two heads: one looking up, the other down. One, at the viewer, the other away. It appears to be the same figure and the dual representation works as a visual comparison as one plays against the other by measuring and balancing.

Given his past exhibitions(Vicissitudes) , the notion of voyeurism creeps up. It is possible to see how that could be mentioned in tandem with this; it is in the press release. However, is this a tableaux vivant for us to peer at from behind a curtain? No. The stage is set but these are paintings more about light and space, translucency and opacity.

It is all photography-based work, even the still life paintings. Perhaps it is the vertical orientation and looking across and down over the objects that brings to mind a photographic point of view, giving the pictures a high horizon and oblique angles, more in keeping with figurative work. Photography simplifies and allows for invention by flattening the planes and calling attention to the contrast between the bowl of fruit and the color passages in the long shadows.

The single figure compositions are more problematic. What is their raison d’etre ? Is the woman a sex object in this gauzy atmosphere? For me, the paintings of single women rely more on conventions in photography that are not particularly suited to making a compelling image. They remind me of advertising images. That could well be part of the artist’s vocabulary, I may be missing something. This artist has a vision that is developing, continually growing and is exciting to see.

Julian Lethbridge
The Paula Cooper Gallery from March 5 – April 11, 2009 at 465 West 23rd Street.

At first glance the paintings seem easy: Oh black and white grid paintings. But the more one looks, the more one sees. The grid structure provides an armature for improvisation and the artist uses it to explore a unique vision.

Limiting his palette to black white and gray and building upon the grid format he is able to impart an individuality with each piece. He doesn’t repeat himself. The paintings are large, small, vertical, horizontal and with markings of various scales all recreating a world within.

Each painting has a grid surface which quickly breaks down as the different visual elements vie for dominance and create a visual rush of movement. Its not op art. He creates a depth and continuous vibration, rhythmic movement that undulates under the surface. Every painting is different. They have a vibration that comes from Lethbridge’s clever use of structures and gives each a framework that allows for invention and discovery.