New Peaks for James Walsh at Berry Campbell
February 4, 2020 - Cori Huthinson for Whitehot Magazine
Not necessarily spiked, each painting by New York artist James (familiarly Jim) Walsh instead crests like an eggy spire of Pavlova meringue; is viewed head-on as the subtle terrain of a human face. Painted on canvas then mounted, the pure paint impressively lifts off without the assistance of plaster or other molding material. Walsh’s work is distinct from other Modernist abstraction by its textural quality. His life-long professional experience with Golden Paints has rendered him an expert technician and master of patience. The paintings on view at Berry Campbell forego major scale in favor of a very concentrated surface, apprehending the viewer’s eye from an intimate distance. The show’s title "The Elemental," might allude to Robert Rauschenberg’s Elemental Paintings, which gave agency to both the vibrant life and eventual degradation of materials used, or feel back further to Renaissance elemental conception. Questions of alchemy, preservation, handling, and drying time are all brought to light by the reliefs of Walsh.
The compositions themselves range from tufted and pouty to petri dish to epic mixing bowl. There are obvious clusters of like-minded pieces, sharing color or arrangement. For example, BLEND, NATURAL, and MAGENTA MAJOR are unified by a lippy palette and quenelle bulge. CRIN CRIN and Untitled both utilize a radioactive green, smeared and smattered, respectively. On one wall, a pod of miniatures express continuity with crinkly white-on-black contrast, blue wash, and confetti drippage.
Pieces like SAND SOUND align themselves in the lineage of Color Field painter Jules Olitski. SAND SOUND, as well as POSITIVE VENUS, resemble slick sea glass. These pieces recall Olitski’s Plexiglas, 1986 show at KASMIN, particularly Dream Time (1986). Olitski’s hovering color—manifested by the illusion of the depth of glass—is taken up materially by Walsh. SAND SOUND, largely gray and green, achieves a texture that is at once sludge and mist, appearing wet almost.Read More >>