STEPHEN GREENE

by Andy Brumer

"Blue Division," o/c, 50 x 50", 1968.

 



"Evidence," o/c, 49 x 49.5", 1973.

"Night Garden," o/c, 50 x 50", 1985.

"Dusk Recalled," o/c, 50 x 70", 1994.

(Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica) New Yorker Stephen Greene, at age eighty-two remains a vital and active painter. This exhibition presents a selection of the artist's abstract canvases completed between the years 1968 and 1994.

In his statement Greene writes, "I have always wanted to achieve a profoundly moving image, to make of paint and canvas a visual fact worth dealing with on many levels. Art does set up a particular world, one that suits my vision of what I see and know, and deals with the dark side of existence as well as its enchantments and pleasures. . .My formal stance is very much involved with an underlying structure that is insistent to the life of the work."

Indeed, Greene's paintings do more than speak for themselves. They stand as highly accomplished "emblems" of the values to which vintage New York School, Modernist and Expressionist artists fiercely committed themselves to and, in part, defined their work. These include organicism, abstraction, romanticism and the, perhaps, ironic combination of a belief in self-revelation through an exploration of the artist's own unconscious coupled with the belief that a work of art represented a self-referential object limited in meaning to the confines of the space it occupies.

The paintings in this exhibition all display similar earth-tones and colors. They repetitively echo imaginatively rendered geometric shapes and forms. However, there is also an unmistakable emotional evolution or movement from the first painting dating from the decade of the 60's to the last their autonomous talents to a tune, but one finished three years ago. In Blue Division, the earliest work in the show, a vertical progression of yellow, brown, blue, red and gray elongated stripes or bands stand motionlessly shoulder to shoulder. The dignity of each colored area asserts itself boldly and confidently like individual members of a jazz combo willing to lend reluctant to blend them into oblivion for the sake of the group. The painting also suggests the sombre, almost stately, sensibility of stained glass windows.

A swiftness of motion as well as a darker, more energized emotional import, seems to accrue in each painting as the canvases progress chronologically. One of the most recent works in the show, Dusk Recalled [1994] stands as a dramatic atmospheric curtain of moody mauves and ghostly grays contained within forms of varying degrees of solidity and transparency.

Through these works Greene consistently emotes a poetic inquisitiveness of line, feeling and form. In remaining constant and true to the textures and rhythmns of earth and water, day and night, motion and stillness, this work shares both the intellectual refinement and the spiritual openness and innocence that are the rewards of a life lived in and through art.