Gilbert-Rolfe’s exhibition at Gray Kapernekas Gallery includes four large paintings made since 2000. Two of the works, The Way Birds Use Gravity (2002) and The Chameleon and the Wraith (2003-2004) are notable for their gestural brushstrokes and dynamic palette of pinks and reds. In both works, foreground and background fold into each other, and a sense of figurative movement blurs from geometric arrangements. A second pair of paintings, Impassivity with Space for Movement (2001) and Step (2004-2005), are, at first glance, color fields marked by complicated edges, heightening the viewer’s awareness of the edge and the frame.
A painting should be something that happens while one is looking at it, says Gilbert-Rolfe, and in this sense, his paintings are as much about the viewer’s physical presence and interaction as they are about the image on the canvas. Gilbert-Rolfe’s critical writings on painting and abstraction have been influential for the past few decades, informing discourse around beauty and the role of painting in a post-Modern context.
I was asked recently what my writing about art and associated matters has to do with my painting, and I said that since the 1980s I’ve been writing about the same forces that my painting tends to be about: beauty rather than brutality, attractiveness rather than argument. Brutality and argument tend to be contemporary signs for the serious, and it was in part in response to that banality that I wrote a book about beauty which identified it with the frivolous.