Jeffrey Kessel’s 12 new oil paintings at Thierry Goldberg Gallery look like paintings. Large and often giddily colorful, scrawled, crumpled and squeegeed in luminously thin layers that make the canvas into an infinitely transparent screen, they are, despite appearances, rigorously minimal: every gesture is defused even as it begins, and nothing is allowed to linger. Movements are sideways and compositions are decentralized. In one case, a series of thick magenta, orange, green and black lines double one another against a background of pinkish and yellow stains, threatening to create depth or hierarchy, so Mr. Kessel wipes away their central intersection with a flat yellow void. Resemblance and allusion are also defused before they can settle: sometimes we’re looking at graffiti; sometimes, as in a pale, oceanic, bluish-gray scraped over black, at Hokusai; and sometimes, as in a pair of black and white crumple paintings, at Hokusai meets Heavy Metal. But if the risks are low or the engagement restrained, the balance is impeccable and the concentration high, so that what look like paintings when you walk in continue to look like paintings as you look. (Through Dec. 23)
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