CONSTRUCTING WITH COLOR
“How is a cloud outlined?”
In the history of art color traditionally embodies emotion, while drawing represents the intellect. It’s above all the Venetian art of Giorgione and Titian that affirms the importance of color and the primacy of emotion, in contrast to the Tuscan vein – especially the Florentine – based on line in the service of volume. But it’s with abstraction that color frees itself from figuration and becomes the absolute protagonist of the work of art. In the historical abstraction of Kandinsky and Klee, color is tied to a subtle geometry, but after this, color wins increasingly greater freedom.
It’s from this expressive liberty that Roy Lerner’s color departs. But Lerner’s color has body, thickness, substance. It’s an impasto color, familiar with density, that confers weight on the painting and moves it almost towards bas relief. The color constructs the space. In Swell (1994), color creates a whirlpool, but in the more recent Wobbled in the Wind (2006), the way the paint is put on has a wavy motion. In Thinking Ahead (1994) an acid yellow streaked with green creates a slash of light surrounded by chunks of different colors. Some hues remind us of the stridencies of Italian Mannerism but they are, in reality, the shrill and brilliant colors of new technology.
In Splash Dance, the paint, crossing different climate zones, now becomes more rarified, almost liquid and achieves unexpected transparency. The idea of a liquid element returns in many works and also in the titles, as for example, Ocean (1999). In fact, as if to emphasize this fluidity, this work can be hung vertically or horizontally. Even Lerner’s use of transparent gel, among the painting materials he employs, adds to the impression of fluid liquidity along with a sensation of metallic flashes.
Interlude (2006) presents a real, literal structure of lines of force forming network that strives to contain the color, which immediately finds an escape route in the center. But even absent this structural typology, a kind of grating suggests itself, realized exclusively through chromatic means: see, for example, Guna Touch the Sky (2001) in which the pictorial fabric seems composed of countless rods. In He Imagined Her (1999) the pictorial incidents clearly detach themselves, like high ground in a landscape, from the green expanse of the ground, while red spatters run from the corner like an intense musical note that rings out in isolation. Some works of 2006 have a two-part composition and are formed of spots that, like Rorschach blots, we can all can read with our own imagination and project our own dominant idea and our own emotional states. Rather like Leonardo da Vinci’s idea about studying spots on a wall, these paintings begin with the creative fury of the artist and complete themselves in the eye of the beholder.
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