Fri Jul 18 2008 1:35PM NYC USA

Imminence and Harmony in the Work of Bart Gulley
By Dominique Nahas

As an intractable visual strategist of high order, Bart Gulley clearly enjoys playing against himself for high stakes, creating aesthetic rules and conditions which he then proceeds to both play out and alter in circumscribed ways. The full-bodied art that results reflect a nuanced, thoughtful approach to art-making which incorporates a process that is fastidiously in tune with a game of revealing and concealing in regards to spatial, volumetric and coloristic play.

Gulley’s paintings possess an intricate vitality, offering sensations of the crystalline and the faceted, the liquid and the smooth. Territorialized by an organizational framework that recalls the worlds of diagram and schema, these paradoxes provide a full experiential spectrum that courses through the artist’s discursive intentionality. Gulley’s attention to the phenomenal and the analytical speak a mixed grammar of parts and wholes, dispersal and containment, that permeates his thought and process. By uncovering structural relationships between oppositional qualities that are felt simultaneously, he creates internal landscapes and geometries that derive from the real, but rely upon multiple viewpoints.

This admixture begets vitality as the state of becoming enfolds the work and unfolds within it. An incontestable aura of structural harmony is created as painterly segments both act as articulated parts and appear coextensively interconnected. The result is work that feels stable on one level while also appearing to be at the mercy of unpredictability and motility on another. The lingering power of the aesthetic before us is embedded within a rich, loamy conceptual space where rigorous analytic intention is wedded with intuited sensation.

Gulley’s process involves responding to the materials he places on his wood board surfaces almost as if they were topographic layers, substrate materials which occur as thinly divided layers of pigment or paint laid down with a variety of tools, rollers, brushes and knives. These thinly layered surfaces are subsequently altered by abrasion, scrubbing, peeling, or scratching which often causes spatial and volumetric inversions and tiltings that energize the visual field. He orchestrates these continual visual emendations to play off his diagrammatic or schematization tendencies, with their strong linear accentuations and angularized areas or planes. This orchestration of attention to the phenomenal and chance-like admixture effects of his colors, volumes and planar surfaces, along with his incorporation of structural guidelines or visual placeholders, emerges as one of Gulley’s signature aesthetic strategies. His structural effects (which draw upon architectural history and the graphic development of modern design, disciplines in which the artist immerses himself as part of his creative work) are then subliminally inserted as part of the pictorial surface.

In Gulley’s paintings, we experience the drama and excitement of an unruly universe marked by deviation, slippage, rupture, inversion, and overlap. The artist addresses the sensorial and perceptual aspects of that experience while inviting the viewer to become aware of its conditionality, how it is framed and interpreted through our sensations and perceptions. By balancing these intentions, he is able to create poly-tonal, sensuously analytical works such as Florentine and Placer, two recent paintings. These remarkable pictures find their measure through a scrupulous blending of visual elements which achieve the right balance between containment and release, compression and
relaxation, sensuousness and rectitude. There is nothing casual in Gulley work; his paintings make manifest a stringent mindfulness in which fastidious buoyancy, unexpected flexibility and lightness of being become imminent.

Dominique Nahas