Stanley Casselman rose to notoriety by responding to a challenge by Jerry Saltz, the provocative New York magazine art critic, but he remains a sought-after painter through his own process and creativity. His latest work is now on view at the Mark Borghi Fine Art gallery in Bridgehampton.
The challenge he answered and fulfilled was to make a work that looked like a Gerhard Richter painting. For Mr. Casselman, having worked with a squeegee himself, Mr. Richter’s style was almost second nature. In the end he made quite a few as part of the experiment, which evolved into a series or two. They ultimately achieved the effect of homage, but with a personal twist.
Since then, he has introduced more patterning into the acrylic paintings on canvas, and then went to the next level, applying acrylic paint through a squeegee on the back of silk screens so that they bleed through and become their own paintings. This is the series he is showing at Borghi, paintings that take their medium as support and recall old-school reverse-glass paintings.
He places an additional layer of the polyester material underneath so that the negative space of the painting has a denser and more substantive feel. But the material also casts wavy patterns with light. Between the thin and thick layers, which he manipulates with the amount of pressure and paint he uses and the precise taped alleys that run through the compositions, his work exudes a strange energy that seems interrupted before it explodes, a controlled chaos.
The series called “Frequencies” refers to their origin as paintings and the chemical make-up of stars. It starts to get a little heady in the gallery, where the Richter references are still flying, even if under the radar. These are the works that have a more linear or zip-like quality to them from the masking tape he applies to create tight strips that resist paint.
In the “FM” series, the paintings are less structured and hemmed in by the bands of “Frequencies.” These compositions spread across the screens interrupted, if at all, with swathes of paint, not voids.
The artist wins the day with his use of color, rich and vibrant, and his mastery of manipulating paint in such a removed process. That he has control is obvious, but what he does with it, coaxing under layers out, creating patterns and designs, and even manipulating the squeegee based on the amount of paint it has remaining, all reveal an artist very particular and methodical in his approach.
That they are large-scale works underlines the lengths (and widths) he will go to to achieve his ends, making his own squeegees to suit his purpose. Although the work looks random and gestural, it is and it isn’t. His hand is once removed by the use of a tool with a proximity more like a rake than a palette knife.
His use of color highlights acrylic’s acid vibrancy. There is a density of application that almost rises to bas-relief, which is evident in a work like “Frequency F9V,” which is set in a silkscreen frame and reveals the layers when approached from the side. While completely abstract, the “Frequency” paintings seem to suggest scenes or objects, perhaps because the naked strips seem like they might be covering up something. In “Frequency A2IV,” with its dashes of red, it might be rose petals. In “Frequency A1VP,” it could be a cityscape in shades of blue or gray.
The Borghi installation makes the most of the painter’s vibrancy and manages to keep it from becoming too overwhelming. Works that complement and contrast each of their color schemes seem to find their way next to each other, and the singular works are given room to flourish.
It’s a perfect summer painting show, full of high-energy color, some nifty “How’d he do that?” ingenuity, vague and direct familiarity, and more. As of press time, the exhibition has no closing date, but should be on view for the next three weeks.