On last week’s ambitious Art Crawl, Geoffrey and I hit up David Nolan Gallery as our first stop of the evening and were extremely charmed by Recent Terrestrials, an exhibition of new work by Alexander Ross. Bringing together a series of large-scale paintings and a group of smaller drawings, the exhibition signifies a variety of recent formal and thematic innovations for the artist.
Ross is best known for his biomorphic imagery, wherein modeled forms suggest molecular ecosystems as viewed through a microscope, or surreal landscapes inspired by Max Ernst. In recent years, the artist has developed a distinctive color palette that includes occasional flashes of red and yellow emerging within multiple shades of green. Ross’s characteristic handling of paint – through which shapes are given dimensionality in incremental bands of shading – might suggest a photorealistic endeavor. However, viewed as a whole, his compositions can be understood more accurately as abstractions, where the interplay of color and form, highlight and shadow become the focus.
With Recent Terrestrials, Ross redirects his emphasis toward imagery recalling “grotesques,” a style of architectural ornament found throughout Europe that incorporates ugly or playfully contorted faces. I believe they are also called Gargoyles, but Ross’s painted figures remind me of the ‘claymation’ technique used in animated films best exemplified the Gumby franchise. These sneering faces also have a political dimension, conveying the artist’s restlessness in response to what he perceives to be disquieting geological and social changes in civil life.
Another group of paintings finds the artist un-mounted from his established vantage point, in which a clear blue sky serves as a neutral backdrop. Radically shifting this familiar perspective, a number of Ross’s new works comprise intricately worked lattices or cellular matrices, appearing both luminous and translucent. In an alternative reading, these can also be seen as cross-sections of the earth where unusual concave forms suggest subterranean excavations.
Recent Terrestrials by Alexander Ross will be on Exhibit Through December 6th, 2014 at David Nolan Gallery, Located a 527 West 29th Street in the Chelsea Gallery District. House are Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM.