Paul Resika's vibrant new show offers great sensual and cerebral pleasures.
The work is emotionally charged and filled with vitality. His color
is exuberant, extroverted, reaching out to the viewer. And at the same
time these paintings are intensely, quietly controlled. There's nothing
off the cuff. Resika plays with ideas about space, light, and color.
Every mark, every shape is considered, its essence found.
In this show, Resika gives
us a classic Theme and Variations. His ten paintings are based on the
same essential composition. This theme is stated most explicitly in
Reading Yellow I, in which a woman reclines reading a book, with a tree
some distance behind her. She rests in the bottom left corner of the
painting, while the tree stands in the top right quadrant, its height
cut off by the edge of the canvas. A vase, empty, sits to the right
of the woman.
In each painting, the figure
and tree occupy similar positions: she's always bottom left, it's always
top right. But then the variations begin: To start with, the tree is
not always a tree - or not necessarily, anyway. In several paintings
it appears as simply a vertical stroke of paint, leaving open other
interpretations - a structure of some sort, a door or window? Additional
imagery appears and disappears: a cat, a boat, flowers. Sometimes the
woman faces the viewer invitingly; sometimes her back is turned. The
light and its relationship to the various forms changes from painting
to painting. And, perhaps most intriguingly, in each the space feels
different, inviting you into and around the painting in a new way.
You can imagine Resika's
mind working as he explores different ideas in each painting - from
the coloristically and spatially reductive Yellow Delft, to Blue Nude,
which has the most traditional space and perhaps the most color of any
of the paintings. Looking at a show like this, you long to know in what
order the paintings were made, as they so clearly inform each other.
It's fascinating to travel through the gallery observing the differences
between the works, seeing how those changes affect the whole, and speculating
on which painting led to the next.
The pictures appear quite
uncomplicated at first blush. They are built on a simple composition
using large blocks of color; the color is usually subtly modulated,
occasionally completely flat. But give these paintings time; they unfold
slowly. The more time you spend with these pictures the more exciting
and involving they become. They are flat and spatial at the same time,
creating a strong tension as areas of color move forward and recede.
Resika paints deep colors
thinly. This allows underpainted layers - his earlier ideas about the
painting - to show through, giving the works a kind of density. The
forms within the pictures have a quality of being found through the
process of painting -- not simply applied onto the canvas. This sense
of process and the painting's evolution gives the work a vitality, almost
as if it were an organic thing that had reached its current state naturally.
This process is more evident in some paintings than in others.
The pictures literally pulsate
with light and color. In Resika's strongest paintings, such as Sisters
and Reverie, Red Boat, his intense colors play off of equally intense
"non-colors"- strange grays and brownish hues - that help
ground the painting provide a satisfying counterpoint to the high-key
yellows, greens and blues.
He continually pushes the
boundaries. Colorwise, some of Resika's paintings feel if they are on
the brink of disaster: In The Plant, for example, what is that orangish-blue
tree doing in this intensely yellow-green painting? But he pulls it
together -- with a little swatch of blue showing through from behind
the bright yellow ground. Yes, he pulls it off - just barely, but that's
what makes it exciting.
And that, I suppose, is really
what this show is about: pushing boundaries - of space, of color, of
the depth a single idea and the painter's ability to control it. And
yes, Resika pulls it off.
Elizabeth von Stade is a painter who lives in New York.