paintings by john rosis

Finding Form, Recent Paintings by John Rosis, January 7 - March 7, 2008

Weschester Gallery, Westchester Community College, Art Workshop

In an exhibition titled "Finding Form," (John Rosis, Westchester Gallery) it seems safe to assume the artist's concerns tend toward process over product. Given the series of reverse glass paintings that dominate the exhibition in number (if not in scale), a meditation on the logistics and perceptible effects of this process would seem to be in keeping with the spirit of this quiet, process-oriented exhibition.

Consider the process of reverse glass painting, whereby paint is deposited on one side of a piece of glass, the reverse side of which is presented to the viewer. The literal "reverseness" of this process is two-fold: first, the painting's final composition will be mirrored, whereby the artist's right becomes the viewer's left: second, the marks made by the artist are immediately and (somewhat) irrevocably foregrounded (as opposed to a "conventional" painting, in which the most recent marks superimpose themselves on those below). Deletions are clumsy and seldom undetectable (ask anyone who has ever scraped something off a window with a razor blade). The relationship between the artist's stroke and what the viewer will see is indirect. The 'flatening' effect of the glass creates a disconnect between any gesture made and the visible effects is has on the finished painting. Even if that disconnect is quickly bridged by the artist flipping the piece of glass to examine the results of a recent mark, consider the suspense, the possible elation, disappointment, befuddlement, or surprise afforded by the mark's reveal.

Rosis's attempts to 'find form' in these reverse glass paintings mix an obvious facility for the technique with a surprise inherent in never quite knowing what a painting will look like until it is turned over. The glass, for its part, offers a perfectly flattened surface for the viewer's (and presumably the artist's) inspection, furnishing information about each mark by effectively cross-sectioning the gestures accrued on its reverse side.

Rosis's forms are fragmented, crystalline. Each painting consists of a few large, angular, sharply delineated zones, sometimes crosscut by intruding veins of contrasting color. Within these distinct zones, color has been deposited in a variety of ways, the effect of the glass on these distinct gestures are palpable. There are areas of fully opaque monochrome: color flows across the glass with a stroke-less fluidity. Elsewhere, viscous color is heaped on, doubling over itself to produce crevasses, hollow vesicles trapping air between paint and glass. In other areas, color combinations appear arrested in various states of mid-mix, as the glass serves doubly as "canvas" and palette: swirls of distinct colors grade into fully mingled, intermediate hues. Other zones seem to feature color residues left by previous layers incompletely scraped away, or trace colors from a previous stroke trapped in the bristles of a brush.

The variety of gesture in Rosis's paintings clearly celebrate the unpredictable effects of the paint's interface with the glass; the crisp divisions between these distinctly variegated areas foreground the artist's ability to deliberately manipulate this entropic mixing process.

Rosis's gestures are at once instantly fossilized and thin-sectioned for viewing and analysis by the glass on which they are painted. Thus, the process provides the ideal site for this artist's formal experiments, whereby each gesture can be considered, analyzed and evaluated. The results of Rosis's experiments, exhibited in "Finding Form," herald an artist who manages tight control over his materials while preserving a sense of surprise when those materials yield unexpected results.

Joe Winter