Saturday, September 10, 2016


EARLY BRIGHT2016, oil on panel, 36 x 36 inches
courtesy Alexandre Gallery

Gregory Amenoff's paintings betray his sensitive side. Narratives of light and mysticism saturate his works with a kind of fairy dust and elvish magic. Abstract landscapes safe from prying eyes and Google Maps.

CLEARING (FOR JB)2016, oil on canvas, 72 x 62 inches*
courtesy Alexandre Gallery

They are a noble quest, a torch taken up from the likes of the Arthur Doves of this world, along with his Stieglitz pals Georgia O'Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, and Alfred Maurer. A mineral, vegetable, but less animal space at once intimate and infinite. A place discovered with paint and brush and knife hacked through forests and over tall mountains. The painting in the painting. Not the gratuitous slapdash of pigments on canvas, but marks and colors that mean something, shape something, define and reveal something. Painting that comes from search and exploration. Other worlds. Remote and distant lands. We come upon his paintings with the same surprise and excitement that he does. We become breathless at the sight of them.

 GROTTE2016, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches
courtesy Alexandre Gallery

And these are places of great power and light, and maybe above all, healing. For him, and for us. Dr Amenoff. Yes. The great and powerful Amenoff. Delivering paintings to the world.

DREAMER (FOR GG)2016, oil on panel, 36 x 36 inches
courtesy Alexandre Gallery

Each painting becomes a diorama of sorts. Open them up and let the show begin. A music box. Wind it up and hear its music. Painting can do this. Painters like Amenoff believe. Otherwise what is the point? This is his gift to the world.

MOUNTAINS AND GARDEN2014-2015, oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches
courtesy Alexandre Gallery

When people throw around the term spirituality when talking about art they are playing with fire, whether they know it or not. Spirituality is about light, yes, but more importantly it is about healing and grace. Grace and healing. In a world where darkness is all around us and the light of the world is dimming, Amenoff finds and passes on the bright light of hope in his paintings. This is the torch from Dove. Is there alchemy there? Yes, paint into paintings that become something powerful for good.

BEGINNINGS,  96" x 84", 1984, Oil on Canvas
courtesy Albright Knox Museum

Just over thirty-five years ago(c.1979), I was a young painter and art writer sitting in the art dealer Robert Miller's sunny office high over Fifth Avenue just off 57th Street, and he wanted me to hang on and look at some paintings by a young Boston artist that he was just getting in. Miller lined two or three large, thickly painted, heavily worked, very muscular, churning, branchy, boney, leafy, big bodied abstractions against the wall and asked me what I thought. Flecks of color and light kicking up out of a darkened forest of brave paint. I was impressed. This was the work of Gregory Amenoff. There was a new painter in town.

“Tramontone”, oil on canvas, 1980s, Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In those paintings Amenoff offered a bold, dynamic, dramatic and energetic vision of great fire. He took the art world by storm. In the years that followed those heady days of the 1980s, however, the art world has cooled considerably. Painting is not what it once was.


Think of this new work in the big picture and over the long haul. Think of each of these paintings like a bed of hot coals, a bed of hot coals that burns long and bright and can start a blaze the whole world over. This is Amenoff's gamble.  He has recalculated, he has reloaded. He is older and wiser. These later paintings have a whimsy, a tenderness, a dreamscape cultivated and softened and made finer by years of experience and contemplation and musing, of pain and joy and compassion. What spilled wildly from him in his youth is now considered a hundred-fold with each stroke, each breath, each test, each hard lesson learned, each yes or no.

PINK MOON2015-2016, oil on canvas, 44 x 64 inches
courtesy Alexandre Gallery

Those many years ago Amenoff made his mark overpowering us with his big, brooding, nature-inspired oil paintings, but these new large canvasses feel so very different. Radiant. Enchanting. Brilliant. Almost childlike. Their sweet and wondrous mysteries draw us in. Much like the small paintings do. And Amenoff knows what a good small painting can do. It can capture our hearts and minds and spirits as much as any blockbuster can. Maybe he learned this from Dove. Paintings like DreamerGrotto, and Early Bright, are tweeners. They are big enough to fill the viewers field of vision from 3 feet out; and they can also be read well from across the room. Paintings as sirens. Calling to us. All of this new work calls to us. All of this new work whispers magic.


This is one of those subtle little unspoken experiences in painting; does it make you stand back or does it draw you in? Does it call to you or does it tilt your head back. Do we fly to it, do we submerge ourselves, or do we just check it out? It is a painting thing. Amenoff has faith in all of these painting things, when all around him people are losing their heads that painting is dead. Again.  He has devoted his life blood to this notion that painting not only matters, but that painting makes a difference, that painting brings us light and hope and grace and courage and fire and some place else to go the way nothing else can. Nothing, that is, except maybe poetry. This is Amenoff's domain: poetry in paint.

TOWER FOR STRINDBERG2016, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches
courtesy Alexandre Gallery

So when you're beaten down from that Netflix binge, or have put aside your iPhone; or when your wifi disappears and cuts you off from the world; then sidle up to an Amenoff mystical abstraction, get comfortable, and warm yourself. You are in for a special treat, and it is going to be a long, cold winter.

GROTTE IV (ORNANS)2016, oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches
courtesy Alexandre Gallery

Addison Parks
Spring Hill, September 10, 2016

 BOUGH2016, oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches*
courtesy Alexandre Gallery

Reception for the artist Thursday, September 15 from 6:00 to 7:30 pm
On View September 15 – October 29, 2016

Alexandre Fine Art Inc
724 5th Avenue
4th FloorNew York, NY 10019

Catalogue available with text by Stephen Westfall

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You pulled out all the stops for Gregory. It was a pleasure to read your insights into such things as subtle and nuanced as spirituality. It is not just a word but a lifetime of digging deeper. Martin Mugar