BOSTON, MASS.- Rick Fox: Edge of Structure and Louis Risoli: New Paintings are both on exhibition from February 1 through 23.
Rick Fox paints landscapes almost entirely plein air. Teaching and residing on the southern coast of Maine, he is surrounded by natural beauty; he visits the same spot over and over again, never tiring of the view. The light, time of day, and season create vastly different paintings from one to the other.
My initial impulse to paint the landscape is not to create a document of a meaningful place, although the process of painting does just that. When a location for a series of paintings has exhausted itself, I spend time in a blind-stumble hoping to come upon the next discovered hook; the force of three colliding shapes, a seductive pair of close tonal color relationships, or a nagging spatial sensation, etc. Whatever it is that stirs something up, it seems like a new and necessary opportunity presenting itself. The hooks become starting points from which things unfold, and then once underway I can find myself working at the same spot for a year . . . two, Fox adds. This past year, he received two residencies, one of which brought him to Oregon and then on to New Mexico and Nevada; the other brought him to Latvia. Fox depends on the newness and excitement of a different environment to inform and challenge his work.
Each painting has a vivacity of application and color, even though the largest is 20x24. They are gutsy, surprising, and sometimes chaotic. His paint, applied mostly using a palette knife, is laid down in thick, confident strokes with one streak bumping up against another and sometimes merging. Occasionally, small areas of the surface of a painting will appear to have been scraped away to reveal a wash of color instead of Foxs characteristic pile of paint. Its in these small moments that the viewer may wonder, if Fox is after more than just beautyit's a thoroughly considered labor.
Whereas Foxs paintings are tightly held together constructions, Risolis large paintings look as if the thread were pulled. Having set aside his characteristic use of shaped canvases, he now plays out the drama within the rectangular stretchers. Risoli composes symphonically, painting with layers of oil, which allows the layer beneath to inform and interact with the next layer. Whereas the paintings have explicit order and balance, they also delight in moments of quirky rapture and mystery. His imagery is composed of complex shapes and colors that become clashing forces; in Friend of Judy, for example, the shapes ooze and bump up against each other held together by what appears to be a house made of string. Its a tenuous relationship, one that could fall apart at any moment.
Risoli uses a complicated visual language of shape and color and atmosphere to create a synergy of visceral and human-made (often architectural) imagery with natural and elementary forces. For example, the coiled shapes of veins and arteries coalesce into whirlwinds and tornadoes, and paint that has been allowed to flow in thin veils and almost random drips may be carefully and deliberately over-painted, preserving its intent while exerting the painters control.
Risolis colors are often arresting and vibrant, with the potential to imply frivolity and joy, and these are certainly part of the paintings appeal; but under-layers of moody, turbulent color often seep or erupt to the surface, disrupting the complicated patterns that Risoli revels in, and hinting at deep emotion and complex passions. As Risoli says that all his memories contain evocations of color, for him mixing colors is often a Proustian adventure, evoking past paintings and even childhood memories. He is constantly searching for a particular yellow that excited him as a child, but which is of course unknowable and thus irretrievable. The mood is at once joyous but also dark and foreboding. Its this mix of hot and cold that keeps us coming back for more.