Threesies in abstraction

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This is a detail from an untitled Robert Goodman painting. Click the image to see it bigger. And see more images from the show at my flickr set.

Poured or brushed, chaos-evoking or orderly, abstract painting, can always make the case for itself when it’s well done. Seraphin Gallery ‘s exhibit Abstraction: 3 Views, does just that–delivers a juicy, non-representational painting show that’s a crowd pleaser.

Of course no two minds think completely alike on any one subject so the three artists in the show, Robert Goodman, Jon Manteau and Ben Will, present three different approaches whose outcomes are unlike each other even if their intents might be in the same ballpark. Goodman’s large gestural oil paintings on canvas are brushy and colorful and punctuated with paint passages that range from staccato to weepy-willowy. I want to see these works as narrative abstraction. There are worlds colliding here, or people having wide-ranging discussions. The works are theatrical — brassy even. And they are full of space. I kept thinking of Frank Stella and his “Working Space” essay in which he says painting must create 3-D space (my paraphrase and please correct me, someone, if I got it wrong). Goodman is creating 3-D space in a 2-D plane. And his strategies draw you in — instead of repelling you as do some, if not all, Frank Stella literal 3-D painting exercises.

You could see music in these works but you could see urban life as well, the hum of highways; the big-boned structures and quieter spaces; the people running red lights or just plain running.

Jon Manteau, detail, Basketball Orange, 2005.

Jon Manteau is a drip-meister par excellence. His large, medium and small works — all house paint on cabinet-grade plywood–feel elemental. With their lava-like surfaces Manteau’s pours coagulate into topography that’s as natural as the canyons and volcanoes they evoke and as unnatural as yesterday’s Home Depot sale of satin finish latex, tinted basketball orange (and really who would order such a color?) These are seductive works and while they are not story-tellers exactly, they exercise a hypnotic charm, their various textures and passages allowing you to fall down into them in reverie.

Ben Will, Plotting, 2006, acrylic and oil on canvas

Ben Will’s works have a system of coding that makes them mysterious. Will’s organic shapes — are they islands? mouths? vaginas? other??? — are sometimes repeated and sometimes stand-alone, but always floating and surrounded by acid-colored backgrounds. Their ambiance is sci-fi and aboriginal and they seem to be charged with a kind of voodoo mantra electricity that is a little forbidding.

The show is just enough work (although I would have liked to see another Will just to study him a little more) and hung in nice groupings to foster comparisons. When I was in the gallery, Todd Keyser, who organized the show, told me the gallery was doing the Affordable Art Fair June 16-18 in New York. They’re very excited about it. Other Philly galleries in the mix are Dolan/Maxwell, Pentimenti and the Print Center.