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Robert Greene at Robert Miller

Walking Happy

   I can't think of a better way to welcome spring than this exhibition of 16 sun-drenched canvases by Robert Greene, his first U.S. solo show in six years. (A New York painter in his early 40s, Greene has lately been living in Amsterdam). Greene's brand of Rococo painting, elaborate yet funky, touches upon themes of pleasure and happiness in a way that often recalls Hubert Robert, the artist of the "ancien regime." But Greene's work has an edge.

In these new large and medium-sized oils, such as Island and Alive, Greene uses luscious colors and refined brushwork to depict idyllic outdoor scenes. Children play in grassy meadows, poodles frolic along hillsides, gymnasts leap and swimmers bathe in shimmering lakes. In Swing, a handsome young man wearing only briefs cavorts on a swing hanging from an enormous flowering tree.

However, in spite of all the gay frivolity, almost every canvas appears to be permeated by a vague anxiety. Greene's fantasy vision is often tinged with melancholy and, in certain works, despair. The exquisite painting Plunge, for instance, shows a young man and his dog in mid-air, having just leapt off a high bridge. Only lost love could have possibly driven this man to his death, as only blind loyalty causes the dog's demise.

Robert Greene, "Recent Paintings," Mar. 3-28, 1998, at Robert Miller, 41 East 57th Street, New York, N.Y. 10022