By Catherine Walworth
Finesilver Gallery has just unleashed a new trio of artists on San Antonio, but don't procrastinate about seeing this show. It's too good for you to wait. Jason Rogenes elbows the gallery with a huge, cardboard structure. Its beams are far enough apart and tall enough to allow the viewer to walk into it like a cage. It looks part science model, part Sol LeWitt. Hovering above these girders is a large space station soaring towards the second story. Resembling a giant sparkplug, the sculpture is made out of pieced-together Styrofoam and lit from within by fluorescent lights. An ironic twist on the idea of sending our accumulating garbage into outerspace, this object glowingly transcends its materials.
You'll notice the molds where wine bottles once lay, protected. Somebody floated away on the contents and Rogenes sends the Styrofoam floating off as well. Cardboard and Styrofoam are really only important for their ability to safeguard other, more precious goods. Rogenes has turned these unsung heroes into art, but with the obsessive touch of some anonymous guy who builds model airplanes in his basement. But Joseph Cornell worked in his basement too, and look what he accomplished.
Along the walls are watercolor paintings of planets and line drawings of space stations that counter the planets' free-flowing colors. The planetary pigment dried into spidery rivers, like bright tie-dye patterns. In "In Search of 02.23.04," oxide green resembles a chemical haze in a gaseous atmosphere. In "In Search of 04.28.04," a quaint, accidental drip of orange paint becomes a new miniature planet. There are up to four planets on each sheet, the implication of vast space between them filled only by white page.
Ascend the staircase and discover Irish painter Paul Doran's own exploration of space. Nine paintings, each about one foot by one foot, jut from the walls with glutinous inches of oil paint. First, one encounters "Cry Me a River," whose heaps of black, creamy white, and fudgy brown paint undulate, break, and lie in masses. The title may come from blue paint that peeks out of a central crevice. The paint is hypnotizing. Piles of it have been shoved and pushed around the linen-covered panel. What falls off during the drying process, Doran scoops up and drops onto any number of paintings nearby.
Another small painting, "Delicate," is anything but fragile. Yellow, orange, and brown drives from right to left across the canvas, cresting midway and at the edges. Colors blend and play spectacularly. The thickness of the paint is unlike familiar abstract expressionism, or your art school painter who tries to shock with excess. Doran is sure and skilled at moving paint. What might be frivolous globs under another's hand is breathtaking here.
"Snapshot" is blended into soft focus, like Gerhard Richter, only smaller and denser. These paintings are so sculptural that you can walk around them and be continually surprised by the range of colors and mountainous pigments. Doran pushes the paint and gravity pulls it, resulting in a multidimensional feast. The delicious colors, too, contribute to the feeling that we are looking at the remnants of ice cream sundaes.
Born in El Paso, Hunt Rettig now lives in Aspen, Colorado. Entering his room of works at Finesilver, the viewer might think they see large photographs, perhaps of smooth stones. But these are sculptures, not photos, assemblages in frames encased by a hazy film rather than clear glass. Rettig's materials include paperboard, plastic, wood, metal, and silicone, but the result is mediated by the clouded surface.
Rettig, who says he is influenced by kinetic artist Jesús Soto, uses white objects to build abstractions. Some of his groupings of rounded forms go to the edges of the frames, while some are constrained in the center. "Open Head" stands out for its red and black colors, but shares the same closed, circular forms as its neighbors. Only "Open Create Close" resembles a cross-section of cells. The refinement of the finished product is smooth and static by comparison to the other artists' work, who candidly allow for accidents and imperfections. The coolness relates more to the meditativeness of minimal art than the frenetic nature of expressionism. Perhaps this body of work is intended to cleanse the palate between feasts. •