Each painting in the exhibition is organized according to its own system, indicating a new phase in Stephen Westfall’s development. The current array of compositions has evolved out of his now-classic works of the mid-1990s in which misaligned grids were placed on colored fields. The new paintings are also more consistently abstract than those in Westfall’s last exhibition at Lennon, Weinberg in 2003, in which one painting in particular was a schematic depiction of a building facade viewed through a wall of windows. In that body of work, he strode right up to the theoretical boundary between abstraction and representation and challenged it. Today, other possibilities have come to the forefront.
Look Around is an optically intense painting in which concentric bands of color are separated by rows of alternating black and white squares. The painting relates to Josef Albers’ paintings of concentric squares in establishing spatial relationships among the colors in the composition, but Westfall shifts the painting into high gear by introducing the black and white squares. These squares read together as bands above the colors, and simultaneously as solid stripes beneath them. And as they run behind the colors and cross the center, something unexpected happens: the white stripes slip into alignment with the black and vice versa. A Westfall “tweak” takes place, not quite as we’ve seen it in any previous painting, but by following an intuitive system to its logical conclusion.