Cephalic Isolation

Artist: Chris Vasell
painting | Acrylic on canvas | 2083x1727mm | 2005

In Chris Vasell's work, surface and depth are in perpetual play, a dynamic that results from his patiently laborious process. In large acrylic paintings and smaller, page-sized watercolors, he applies numerous washes of paint in successive overlays. These multiple, paper-thin layers render his canvases and works on paper at once seemingly translucent and compactly filled, as the edge-to-edge pictorial density is offset by a watery luminosity. Vasell's technique echoes that of 1960s Color Field painting: the smeary runs of paint and limpid washes of Second Day (2005) and Bereshit (2004), for example, evoke the stain techniques of Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler, and the nested rings of Untitled (Concentric Circles Painting) (2004) seem a direct nod to the preferred geometric icon of Kenneth Noland. But Vasell's palette— which includes hues that range from psychedelic acids to somber, metallic darks— betrays a contemporary sensibility, as does the expansive scope of his imagery: human forms are intermingled with landscape vistas, and areas of ornate patterning are juxtaposed with passages of amorphous abstraction.


Whitney Biennial 2006 | 2006.03.02 - 2006.05.28 | Whitney Museum of American Art (old museum)(New York City, NY, United States)