Les Rogers: Just Married at Elga Wimmer PCC
By CAROL CELENTANO, JAN. 2016
At the onset of his career about fifteen years ago, the painter Les Rogers developed a stylistic range that shifted comfortably between figuration and abstraction. His prodigious scope of imagery featured inspired portraits, nudes, landscapes and interiors that freely intermingled and overlapped elements and techniques as disparate as photo-realism and gestural abstraction. Rogers’ work from the more recent past however, appears to have abandoned representation altogether and his latest undertaking currently on view at Elga Wimmer PCC in Chelsea, in true Abstract Expressionist tradition, is a purely visceral experience albeit one that is rife with metaphor.
The exhibition, entitled Just Married, consists of a series of bright paintings featuring the artist’s characteristically broad range of colorful daubs, drips and scrawls that have been executed on mass-produced wooden doors each measuring 80 x 36 inches. Rogers’ choice of uniform painting supports was inspired by de Kooning’s “Door Cycle”, the series of Women he painted from 1964-1966 on hollowcore wooden doors originally intended for use in his Long Island studio and later reappropriated. After painting each of the door panels individually, Rogers recognized relationships between them -- either comparable or contradictory -- that led him to pair several of them to form diptychs or “couples.” Emphasizing the concept of marital partnership even further, he assigned titles that invest the show with thematic coherence. Names such as Better Half, Never Part, Watch Over, Early Risers and Teen Parents manage to throw light on the abstract content by offering exceptionally candid allusions to an engagement with familial activity and the layers of emotional experience in domestic life.
The diptych Early Risers for instance, exhibits a configuration of elegant floating forms including drips and splatters of similar shapes and sizes that seem to conjure the feeling of a duo moving in unison despite the contrasting palettes in each of its two panels. Twinsies pairs two elongated arrangements of intricately tangled biomorphic shapes set off by complementary color schemes that seem to echo each other with only slight variations. In Never Part, the nuptial vow to remain enjoined regardless of the most obvious differences, difficult circumstances or opacity of understanding is evoked by the complete disparity between the diptych’s separate panels - one covered in dense imageless red paint – and the other consisting of bright patches of color, spatial shifts and suggestions of natural light. The upper half of a single vertical panel entitled Watch Over, displays veils of nuanced tones of red suggesting a ghostly figure hovering above what appears to be a more material yet similarly ambiguous pattern of forms.
Despite his non-figurative approach there is a deeply felt human element to Les Rogers’ new paintings that his choice of painting support goes a long way toward generating. The verticality, as well as the size and shape of the door panels hint at human proportions undoubtedly contributing to Rogers’ decision to approach the finished paintings as if they had human attributes, coupling them and emphasizing the human sentiment with titles and theme. While his decision to restrict his supports to uniform door panels, may have begun as an homage to de Kooning, an artist to whom Rogers owes more than a casual debt, it has also provided fertile ground - in the most literal sense - for its ability to engender fresh expressive content. This is not the first time that his experiments with the restricted size and format of painting supports have impacted the content of Rogers’ work. Several years ago he began working on small square plywood panels on which he gouged out painting areas with routers to create improvised frames.
Filled with an array of colorful abstract marks these highly original objects suggest irregular windows that offer another glimpse into Rogers’ inner and outer world. In keeping with the nuptial theme the exhibition also includes a number of these paintings that “marry” image and frame. WM
Les Rogers: Just Married, remains on view at Elga Wimmer PCC, 526 West 26th Street, # 310, New York, thru February 15, 2016. Gallery hours are Tuesday thru Saturday noon to six until January 30th and by appointment in February. To schedule and appointment please call (212) 206-0006.
Carol Celentano, a former director of the Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, is a private art dealer, free-lance curator and fine art appraiser.