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by Marge Bulmer

“The Evolution of Flight,”
oil on linen, 24 x 20”, 2000.

"The Moon," oil on
linen, 20 x 24", 1999.

“The Line Has Been Drawn,"
oil on linen, 24 x 20", 1999.
"Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves."

(Koplin Gallery, West Hollywood) Steven Albert paints empty interiors that stir the imagination. The viewer feels compelled to create a narrative out of the sparse, mysterious settings. In these paintings less is truly more. The texture is smooth, the palette muted, the organization of space formal, the line clean, and the sound is that of silence. The art asks to be completed by subjective experience. Without rhetoric or shock, it demands time for reflection. Structuring his work on horizontals and verticals, Albert builds elusive content on firm composition. Whether the time is day or night, the mood remains the same in quiet, unpopulated settings.

In The Evolution of Flight bright daylight floods the room from a window, a curtain drape hanging neatly to one side. A half-wilted plant on a wrought iron stand in the opposite corner reaches for the light. Occupying more than three-quarters of the space is an empty wall. Someone has been there, someone has arranged the room, someone has left the plant to wilt. But no one appears. There is a sense of waiting, of suspence, of not knowing what will happen or has happened.

In The Moon it is night. The view is blocked by a dark wall covering all but the edge of the painting, where a sliver of light comes from a partially opened door. Although smoothly painted and dark, the wall seems to reflect light from an undetermined source. A small shadow is barely noticeable on the floor at the bottom of the door. Again, no one is there, yet someone has left a light on; someone is or has been present in the next room. The setting arouses curiosity and sets a variety of imaginative scenarios in motion.

Albert is stylistically akin to Edward Hopper in his reductive vocabulary and implied dramatic narrative. And, like Hopper, Albert is a romantic realist. Albert, however, omits characters. At the same time, he creates a space for the viewer to contemplate alienation, danger, loneliness, or even the satisfaction of solitude. In The Line Has Been Drawn a blank wall again occupies most of the painting, but here a healthy potted plant, carefully rendered, stands regally in the corner. Although the wall blocks the view, the image communicates a sense of comfort. You feel peacefully quiet or perhaps about to be welcomed by the resident.

Concentrating on fine craftsmanship, which is not only demonstated in the paint application by also in the geometric formal structure of these works, Albert allows the emotional content to emerge gradually. The viewer must invest time in these paintings, for they do not shout in blaring expressionist gesture but rather in courteous, muted whispers.