By Christopher Knight
March 9th, 2004
Fragmented yet comprehensive
For painters like Sigmar Polke and David Salle, stylistic fragmentation has functioned as a critical rationale -- a way to break any “unified field theory” of art. For New York artist Les Rogers, stylistic fragmentation is itself a style.
In five self-assured recent paintings at the Happy Lion Gallery, Rogers reveals great manual dexterity with the brush. A thick, wide, sinuous slather of purple, cream and gray oil paint might magically transform itself into a striped banner unfurling in an unseen breeze. A young woman’s bare midriff disappears into a lavish layer of agitated color. A visual journey across a big horizontal canvas covered with a catalog of painterly marks becomes a walk down a country lane aglow in autumnal colors.
Facility with well-traveled paths between frank figurative representation and allusive gestural abstraction is much in evidence. Each of Rogers’ canvases is almost like a group exhibition all rolled into one -- a compendium of mostly Expressionist feints and parries from the last 50 years, starting with Willem de Kooning, all filtered through a Pop art atmosphere reminiscent of early James Rosenquist.
In one work, a swollen line evokes a breast, mostly through its proximity to a torso. Fingers emerge, as if peeling back shapes within the painting. A speedy ribbon of color twists through white space, like the experience of rolling over in sheets.
A large picture of a rock musician in action on stage (he recalls Iggy Pop, punk’s elder statesman) features an excellent smear of a mouth. Indulgent sensual experience is Rogers’ principal focus, with the promiscuity of style adding a salubrious edge.
The Happy Lion Gallery, 963 Chun King Road, Chinatown, (213) 625-1360, through April 3. Closed Sundays through Tuesdays.