Throughout the history of humankind, geometric abstraction has been a part of visual culture. By the 20th century, geometric abstraction emerged as an art movement under the guidance of Kandinsky, Malevich, and Mondrian, artists who reduced their art to form and color, simplified compositions arranged vertically and horizontally, and a minimalist palette. Gary Petersen works from the tradition of his predecessors. But sensed throughout his latest paintings on view in the exhibition Back There Behind the Sun at McKenzie Fine Art is the artist’s contemporary interpretation of geometric abstraction reflecting the here and now.
The exhibition consists of fourteen paintings, which display Petersen’s ongoing study of hard-edged geometric and linear forms engaged in a lively dialogue driven by color, layer and spatial play. His compositions are complex, articulated through a layering of line and form. Rendered in eye-catching colors, formal elements zigzag across the surface, demanding the viewer to follow their path as they move in and out of the picture plane. Petersen uses an orderly approach to create this incredible sense of depth. He begins with an under layer of lines, forms, and grids. A white wash is then painted over the base layer, partially obscuring its visual presence. Lastly, he paints a third layer of forms, which animate the surface and interact with the painting’s background layers.
Different Places, 2016, a medium size painting exhibits an airiness that differs from the densely packed compositions hanging in the gallery. The top layer is made up of rectilinear forms rendered in soft yellow, peach, and light tan and an irregular latticework. There is a subtlety to it, suggesting that the lighter forms are in harmonious existence with those lying under the whitewash layer.
Slip/Spill, 2016 hangs right next to Different Places. Variations between the two paintings are noticed beginning with size – Slip/Spill is twice as big. The larger painting bears more weight on the viewer. Rectilinear forms are composed of darker colors such as plum, turquoise, and deep green, giving the effect they exist in a space that is far from the forms resting in the hazy background. The exhibition’s title Back There Behind the Sun references the notion that a hypothetical planet exists behind the sun, but cannot be seen by the earth. Slip/Spill pictures this idea and leaves the viewer to wonder what is going on beyond the picture plane.
Petersen’s dynamic compositions culminate in Bounce Back, 2015. Form and line interplay on the canvas’ surface, but it is the presence of two green spheres that really set the painting in motion. They seem to be bouncing back and forth in a horizontal direction between the edges of the piece.
Everyday Chaos #20 is one of the smallest works in the show. There is a push-and-pull relationship observed between the pale colored forms and darker kinetic lines. The mood here suggests the chaos that we endure in our daily lives, just before reaching the breaking point.
Back There Behind the Sun is on view at McKenzie Fine Art through October 16, 2016.
All images are courtesy of McKenzie Fine Art
“Back there Behind the Sun”, Gary Petersen, installation view at Mc Kenzie Fine Art, New York, 2016