By Roberta Smith
Aug. 9, 2012
208 Forsyth Street, near Houston Street, Lower East Side
Through Sept. 2
Les Rogers’s abstract paintings always involve an element of subtle self-mockery, but lately he has brought it out into the open, making it more pointed and, in a way, more substantial. He has accomplished this with that all-important feature: framing. His latest efforts are seductive trifles, painted on and framed in wood — a single piece of plywood, to be exact. In an act of dazzling economy Mr. Rogers creates suggestions of both frame and canvas by using a router to outline a wobbly square or rectangle at the center of each panel. He touches up the groove with black and creates an instant wood-grain frame by applying a brown stain to the border area. Then he attacks the center, dispatching oil paint in assorted hues tending toward bright. His ministrations are deliciously quick and febrile; titles like “July 1st,“ “July 17th” and “February 15th” indicate that they never take more than a day, possibly less.
Consistent with Mr. Rogers’s penchant for stylistic promiscuity, his latest efforts touch down all over the map of 20th-century American painting but still manage to look fresh. The buoyant flattened forms of “February 15” bring to mind the work of Arthur Dove, while the intimations of off-kilter still life in “February 17” can summon Alfred Maurer. “July 26th” suggests one of John Marin’s Weehawken abstractions filtered through both Willem de Kooning’s and Alex Katz’s responses to the landscape. “July 1st” and “July 10th” are soft, hazy patches of color, as if Mr. Rogers were a conservative art student trying to please a painting professor of the Color Field persuasion.
These vivacious works join an extended family of object paintings that reaches from folk art, thrift shop and theatrical props to the panel paintings of Howard Hodgkin and Allan McCollum’s Conceptual “Surrogate” installations, ranging blissfully from the ersatz to the sublime and back.