Confidence and sure-handed experience come across in this exhibition by Danish artist Per Kirkeby, who has been showing since the 1960s. Kirkeby presents here a unified group of nine recent abstract paintings that reference landscape, along with three bronze sculptures.
Each canvas is covered with interconnected patches of color created with many layers of loose, vertical brushstrokes. Kirkeby uses black and muted tones of brown, green and red that evoke a rugged, forested land. Highlights in bright yellow and green or red, like the glint of sunlight through the trees, activate the canvases. The colors are rather heavy and brooding, but the overall mood of the show is contemplative rather than somber.
Herbst (Autumn) features a prominent horizon line and two large, red areas. The top half of the canvas is dark red and below is a brighter shade, as if blazing fall foliage were reflected in a mountain stream. In the similarly potent Sommer (Summer), a brilliant patch of green, glowing from within a darker central area, recalls a lush landscape by Cézanne (whose ghost, in fact, permeates the show). Kirkeby's hypnotic, slashing vertical strokes recall the French painter's insistent brushwork, and the blocky, architectonic structures Kirkeby sets up in each canvas have a proto-Cubist feel. His work, however, is not merely an homage, it's a fresh and vigorous reminder of all that there is still left to explore with paint and a brush.
Per Kirkeby, Apr. 27-June 11, 1999, at Knoedler & Co, 19 E. 70th St., New York, N.Y. 10021.