Gary Petersen


A Wild Horizon
July 5, 2007

Seventy or so by almost as many artists co-exist in "Horizon," a willfully rambling group show curated by David Humphrey for the Elizabeth Foundation Gallery. The artworks on view are wildly diverse in style, subject, and materials, but the show does not leave you scratching your head over what recondite connection they might share. It's quite plain to see: Each painting contains within its design a more or less distinct horizontal element, and the works are hung edge-to-edge around the place with those horizontals aligned, forming the continuous, hybrid horizon of the show's title. The metaphorical associations of this concatenation of canvases are many, including the interrelatedness of the community of New York artists, its tribal nature, and its insularity.

The show is a blast, and a funny send-up of the inevitable catch-all summer group show that commercial galleries struggle to repackage under curatorial cover. Mr. Humphrey is a painter who shows at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Gallery and has a number of other curatorial projects to his credit. He is also an accomplished critic, and grants that there is a linguistic analogy lurking here. As units of meaning within a larger structure, the paintings function like words in a runon sentence.

Many works are literal landscapes, such as Angela Dufresne's "Les Rallizes Denudes Portable Concert Tent Somewhere in Greene County, NY" (2007), in which rugged, reddish hills hunker under Technicolor clouds. In Lisa Klapstock's stark ink-jet photograph, "Zeeland part II" (2003), a nearly featureless expanse of tar paper or tarmac sweeps back toward the overcast sky, but weirdly fails to meet it.

In others, the exhibition's through-line is an element of an interior. Elena Sisto contributes "Double" (2005) a twin portrait of two impassive young girls, contemporary korai whose hands are more expressive than their faces. Their shoes are rooted to the low-slung, blackish plane of the floor as if they were sunk in concrete. Topiary reminiscent of toasters populates Louise Belcourt's "Hedge Bud #2" (2006). Positioned toward the top of the picture, with sky blue underneath it, this horizontal suggests a window shade, and thus a view to outside from inside.

The viewer's response to each piece is qualified, even more than usual for a group show, by what hangs next to what, so the installation hinges on affinities and disjunction. Here, no painting is an island — not even "Island" (2007), Sharon Horvath's simplified, top-tier view of a ballfield the colors of turf and sand, surrounded by bleachers resembling scrambled grids. It is the standout among a group of similarly outsider-ish canvases.

Predicated on chromatic considerations is the grouping of dense, sonorous paintings by Dorota Kolodziejczyk, Laura Newman, and Stanley Whitney. Nearby, Gary Peterson's expansive "Afterthought" (2007), in which bowing bands in reds and blues emanate from a low-slung, silver stripe, is flanked by diminutive, selfcontained abstractions by John Zinsser and Susan Frecon. Other clusters relate iconographically; seascape provides the hook for an oceanic sequence that includes a wonderfully uncongested Amy Sillman monotype, "Untitled" (1998), and Katherine Bradford's "Yellow Drift" (2005). It is a painting of a towering, spectral cruise ship, similar to canvases seen in Ms. Bradford's recent solo show at Edward Thorp Gallery.

Satisfying oppositions abound, as well. The most striking of them involves Paula Wilson's "Narcissus" (2007), a hothouse of paint, collage, bits of printed fabric, and stencils, and James Hyde's "Horizon" (2003). The "horizon" of Ms. Wilson's verdant garden view, cutting through the foreground, is a handrail that also functions to focus the composition on an almost-smothered still life of two blue bottles and two yellow blossoms. Just around the corner from this elaborate work is "Horizon," in which the pictorially astute Mr. Hyde has affixed, along the bottom edge of a 9-foot-wide sheet of clear vinyl, a narrow strip of frayed nylon webbing. The upper half of the strip is sky blue; the lower, grass-green. Thus the transparent plane above becomes literally stratospheric, as evanescent conceptually as it is optically.

To prevent the proceedings from becoming too programmatic, Mr. Humphrey departs from his central conceit to include large-scale wall (and window) works by Elizaveta Meksin, Rebecca Smith, and Leonid Tsvetkov. He also breaks things up with his own snapshots of landscapes, still lifes, and street scenes. In exercising a bit of flexibility regarding the concept of the show, Mr. Humphrey allows himself and his artists a little elbow room.

Until July 27 (323 W. 39th St., between Eighth and Ninth avenues, 212-563-5855).

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