Art Reviews - New York Times

New York Galleries: What to See Right Now

‘Just Painting’

Through Aug. 4. Jack Barrett Gallery, 173 Henry Street, Manhattan; 347-377-2764, jackbarrettgallery.com.

 

The 12-artist show “Just Painting,” curated by the painter Ezra Tessler at Jack Barrett Gallery, is a beautifully orchestrated chamber of visual echoes. Mike Cloud’s six-foot-plus, emphatically non-rectangular hexagram, thrown together from old wooden molding and pink-daubed canvas, bats your eye toward an idiosyncratically shaped piece covered in black and white dots by Ruth Root. The dots send you to the starry white speckles in Troy Michie’s two collages, and to a heroic round black canvas by Quentin Morris. Nancy Shaver’s slightly askew wooden box filled with smaller boxes nods at both Mr. Michie’s handsome evocations of black identity and at two transcendently odd oil-on-wood pieces by Anne Minich.

 

The only formal characteristic all the work has in common is a certain muddiness of color or texture that documents, or seems to document, the struggle of its making. It’s tempting to see such muddiness as evidence of philosophical inquiry, or anyway as a metaphor for it. But the only answers painting can really provide, in the end, are to questions about painting. A wonderful oil by Mequitta Ahuja, which pictures an impossible, orange-bordered room against a motley sea, reminded me of a line from the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu: “A road is made by people walking on it; things are so because they are called so.” WILL HEINRICH

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