THE NEW CRITERION
May 01, 2013
by James Panero
Walking through the exhibition of the recent work of John Dubrow, I couldn’t help but notice two old columns cutting through the middle of his Chelsea gallery. Compared to the pristine white box walls of the space, the fluted columns were coated in layers of paint, some of it splattered and much of it trowelled on through what must have been the long and varied history of an old dockland building.
My guess is that Lori Bookstein Fine Art chose to leave these columns in their roughed-up shape for the same reason that I find Dubrow’s cityscapes so beguiling. Beneath the surface, peeking through in layers of paint, is the mystery of what came before.
Dubrow builds up his paint, often over years, to the point where his canvases appear to bend from the weight of their own creation. He applies oils with the knife and returns to his compositions repeatedly to move his cast of characters around the streets, playgrounds, and parks they inhabit. The accretion speaks to the process of painting and animates the work. These canvases have a history.
Dubrow’s paintings are worked over but not overworked. Rather than correct all of their imperfections, he leaves his paintings with a raw intensity. This is especially true in Hudson River Park (2012–13), where one can clearly see how the figures have been revised and shifted. Central Park (2011–2013) dissolves into a Pointillist riot the closer one gets. These paintings are landscapes in relief. A third dimension of paint gives meaning to the other two and completes the work, just as the images are left undone.
“John Dubrow: Recent Work” was on view at
Lori Bookstein Fine Art, New York, from March
21 through April 20, 2013.