Perfectly imperfect

Frederick Hammersley, Got Is Love, 17.5" x 14.5"

Frederick Hammersley, Got Is Love, 17.5″ x 14.5″

Until a couple weeks ago, I’d never been in the back room at Ameringer McEnery and Yohe. For another week or so, that semi-hidden room in back is full of Frederick Hammersley. (I had no idea the gallery had this third exhibit space, more or less concealed behind the desk. Evidence of slippage in my powers of observation. Doh.) It’s another taste of perfection, two years after their last Hammersley show (was it that long ago? you see my point about slippage . . . ), and though it isn’t quite as dazzling as the previous selection, it’s a pleasure. All the qualities that won me over before are in evidence again: the color harmonies, the tension between the organic abstracts and the geometric ones, the playful puns in the title. Got Is Love, for example, above. As a noun, it’s German for God, but it’s a verb for something else entirely, serving as a nice little commentary on American consumerism and plain old avarice. You love what you own. Is that a sales pitch, disguised as a title? Artists have to eat, contrary to common lore. Hey, cigarettes and Pernod are expensive too, for that matter. So if he’s saying love me, buy me: maybe that title isn’t so acerbic, after all. As with Hodgkins, the frame is integral to the painting and gives it even more presence as a three-dimensional object you look at rather than see through. In these paintings, as well as the minimal stripes from Gene Davis that dominate the gallery as the main event, you see the evidence of the unreliable human hand everywhere, unable to hew perfectly to any line, curved or straight, if only you get close enough to see how things meander a bit. In both cases, the wavering edges open up a world of feeling where you might first just see a cool and calculated exercise. The edge always striving to get back to where it belongs, as we all do in life, for better or worse.

Comments are currently closed.