The tiny, compacted thumbnail images on the gallery guide are more engaging, for the most part, than their on-the-wall counterparts. Shrunk, rendered dense, these multicolored works take on a vigor and a depth that, in person, they lack. Surfaces are more of a concern for New Yorker Patrick Berran than dimensionality—often dull, bone dry, marked with washed-out effects at the edges of a color field. A prime example here is number 7 on the guide, blue on bruised purple, with finger marks visible in the outer layer of paint. There is a kind of compacting at play here, too, a collapse of image into facade. Sparse paintings hung in a sparse space, the effect here is mixed. While some pieces seem to reference—or to seize and re-present—more traditional forms (clouding a landscape, pushing into a floral study), pieces like the one marked by the gallery as number 10 offer nothing to grasp yet lack visceral force as well.
The one piece in the show which looks better in person than in printed thumbnail is also the one piece with radically engaged depth, number 9, a work more reminiscent of photography than painting. Set against a black background, peach and orange and yellow-toned shapes intersect and recede, an effect I found entrancing. But what this piece, like so much abstract expressionist photography work, offers is precisely what the other paintings in this exhibition deprive us of—form and depth and motion, even the titillation of narrative suggestion. It is a curious juxtaposition. And while number 9 offers a refreshing break from the bone-dry surfaces of Berran’s other works, they are not strengthened by the contrast, leaving the show off-balance and largely unsatisfying. (Spencer Dew)
Through August 14 at Thomas Robertello Gallery, 27 North Morgan.