Gregory Amenoff’s exhibition at Alexandre this month comprises sixteen paintings completed in his Ulster County, New York, studio over the past two years. A calligraphic leafed vine, painted in varying forms and colors against different grounds, is a recurring motif in the new work, which continues Amenoff’s thirty-year exploration of an intense, romantic, physical, and densely woven semi-abstract landscape vision based both on observation and personal interpretation of the natural world.
Back in the late eighties, when I was a painting undergrad at MassArt, faculty member Dean Nimmer invited Amenoff, who was one of the It painters of the period, to join our final painting critique. I remember Amenoff, swaggering from room to room in cowboy boots, speaking articulately and insightfully about selected student projects. Not surprisingly, he eventually joined the Visual Arts program at Columbia, where he currently serves as Chair. A few years before the memorable crit at MassArt, his work had been included in the Corcoran Gallery’s 40th Biennial of Contemporary American Painting, which critics saw as an antidote to the “camp and kitsch” of figurative painters like David Salle and Eric Fischl.
Organized by curator Ned Rifkin, the show included many favorites: Louise Fishman, Mary Heilmann, Bill Jensen, Jonathan Lasker, Robert Mangold, Elizabeth Murray, Harvey Quaytman, David Reed, Sean Scully, Joan Snyder, Andrew Spence and Terry Winters. In the NY Times, Michael Brenson called the show a cogent argument not only for abstract painting but also for the continuing vitality of a late modernist aesthetic. “All are long-distance runners,” Brenson observed.”The biennial is – of all things – a large museum group show of contemporary art that has nothing to do with trash, camp or kitsch….Each of the 13 painters is committed to surface and anti-illusionistic space. For each one, form and content derive to some degree from an involvement with the materials, process and problems of painting. But however much they may have learned from Formalism, painting for them is never an end in itself. It is a way of touching and defining something within and beyond themselves. Nearly half the artists in the show have been drawn to Oriental art, where painting has been a way of shaping and being shaped by elemental forces.”
Seeing Amenoff’s new exhibition at Alexandre reminds me that painting is a lifelong process.
“Gregory Amenoff: At All Hours, New Paintings,” Alexandre Gallery, New York, NY. Through November 27, 2010.
Gregory Amenoff: Radiant little pictures