Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Don Voisine at McKenzie Fine Art

"High Time," 2008. Oil on wood, 44" x 44."

"Connection," 2007. Oil on wood, 17" x 26."

"Thru and Thru," 2009. Oil on wood, 32" x 60."

"Weave," 2009. Oil on wood, 16" x 26."

"I-Yi," 2009. Oil on wood, 12" x 12."

Don Voisine's current solo exhibition at McKenzie Fine Art is in this viewer's opinion some of the painter's finest work to date. Voisine has mastered the manipulation of black on a par with Reinhardt and certain works by Manet.

His vocabulary is, as always, Spartan. The palette is quite limited: black and white plus primary and secondary hues, sometimes left saturated and sometimes tinted, toned, or shaded. There is always a central black shape and sometimes two; the shape is very often an "X." There is always a colored framing device, often top and bottom, but sometimes left and right. The framing device is generally two colors. Doesn't sound like much, does it? Well, guess again.

The black shapes, internally differentiated with subtle variations in value and surface sheen create spaces within the dark forms that evoke night-time landscapes. Because the values are so close, any given black can be seen as proceeding or receding depending on the viewer's area of focus - looking at a given black tends to draw it out. While looking in this mode, the white triangular shapes appear as figure; almost like opaque shards of broken glass that, with the colored framing devices, create a kind of window into the unstable, inky space behind.

But the black shapes can also switch to the role of figure on a white ground, bounded by the color bars. The blacks retain a kind of spatiality in this mode, but the space is one of overlapping forms as opposed to hazy atmosphere. While viewed as in this way, the black shapes begin pushing at the frame articulated by the colored bars, as if the shapes were too large to be contained by the framing edge of the pictures. Because of this phenomenom, the scale of the pictures is quite large; much larger than the actual size would suggest (the largest picture in the show is 60" x 60").

And these two different figure and ground modalities continually alternate as you view the pictures, each with it's own intricacies and shifting space. Voisine gives you a hell of a lot to look at with a handful of shapes and colors; it's less-is-more done very, very well.

McKenzie fine art is located at 511 West 25th St. in Chelsea, and the show stays up until June 6. I highly recommend it.