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April 5 - May 10, 2003 at DoubleVision Gallery, West Hollywood

by Margarita Nieto

“Remax/Ocotillo," 2003,
acrylic and mylar, 19 x 24".

“Remax/Encantada," 2003,
acrylic and mylar, 19 x 24".

“Remax/Miraleste," 2003,
acrylic and mylar, 19 x 24".

“Remax/Sky View," 2003,
acrylic and mylar, 19 x 24".

"Explaining colour words by pointing to coloured pieces of paper does not touch the concept of transparency. It is this concept that stands in unlike relations to the various colour concepts."
--Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on Colour

"Painting has two weapons at her disposal: 1. Colour. 2. Form.”
--Wassily Kandinsky,
Concerning the Spiritual in Art

Color (and the transparency of color) and form stand out as primary references in these new works by Roland Reiss. New Landscape/Mylar Hybrids explores new territory in painting by an artist who has incessantly confronted the manifold possibilities of seeing, throughout a long and distinguished career as a practitioner and teacher.
The borders and limits of two-dimensional art resulted in Reiss turning to sculpture in 1969-70 and to a series of miniatures--three-dimensional figurative worlds encased in plexiglas boxes. These worlds, these illusionistic and representational "territories of life" initiated the process leading to the present works in that the artist began to confront the concept of representation. Eventually, in 1991, he turned again to painting and to the non-objective and the abstract, specifically to interrogate the space where the mind no longer creates a connection between the description and the object. The result was a series of paintings in which Reiss trowelled acrylic paint through thick stencils, leaving low-relief shapes on the canvas.

Two incidents however changed the course of the work. Reiss had began to notice the surface of the pieces of mylar he used to mix paint and the "accidental" mixture of colors and surfaces that remained on them. Almost simultaneously, he was drawn to real estate advertisements, miniscule landscapes of houses surrounded by trees, bushes, lawns and sky. The result was New Landscape/Mylar Hybrids.

New Landscape involves exploring the abyss between the image that emerges from the descriptive, and the image conceived without a prior reference. The making of the paintings is, in itself, a conscious search for that space and the mylar sheet is the materia prima. Painted with acrylic on both sides, the mylar is the physical space on which the elements of these paintings come together.

The act of painting the mylar is at times gestural, at other times controlled with geometric optical effects. The layering itself consists of placing inclusions under the metallic surface or on top of it. Initially, this process is purely and consciously non-objective. There is no descriptive reference point, with color and form serving as the sole the determinants. Common to all is a linear geometrical shape that signals an architectural association.

Color values are determined by underlying surfaces, whole sheets or units of color which heighten form even as the shimmering mylar effects a floating sensation. The palette itself ranges from black and white to soft then deeper pinks, then to lime greens and yellows, oranges, teals and deep blues.

The point of demarcation from the non-objective genesis of these images to their becoming charged with descriptive meaning and context comes about through their titles: Remax/Ocotillo, Remax/Encantada, or Remax/Skyview. These titles conceptualize the meaning of "landscape" through associations that the viewer has with the word-sign "Remax": "real estate," "house," "home," "place," “living space;" all experiential signifiers of comfort and security. That feeling is intensified through the layers of mylar, colored sheets and inclusions which imbue distance and perspective to the images. Through word-sign and distance, the viewer is invited to "see" clouds, trees, sky and buildings in these works.

In Remax/ Ocatillo, for example, broad, white, horizontal brushstrokes against black set off a precise black line drawing, enlivened in turn by small green floating shapes and a lighter, lime green circular swirl. Below, dots and traces of black emerge among cloud-like white blots and a pale pink haze disappears into the bottom edge of the painting.

In Remax/Encantada warm sunny blobs and progressions of oranges, yellows and greens of varying intensity shimmer through the mylar, a homage perhaps to the golden verdant California landscape. In Remax/Miraleste that sunniness is tempered by a black underlay which simultaneously enlivens the yellows and yellowish-greens, and the architectural reference which stands out in pink and red. But it is the transparent filmy glow and softness of the mylar that defines these works. Not surprisingly, that glow and tactile softness does not reproduce well in photographs or slides.

Turning from writing this piece, my eye catches today's real estate ads, and I am struck again at how we cling to a view of a "world as it is." How jolting and refreshing it is to grasp how Reiss opens up new territories, new landscapes for our eye.