Samantha Dylan Mitchell reviews the exhibition Pat Steir: For Philadelphia at Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, on view through June 21, 2014.
Mitchell writes: "Each canvas maintains two distinct zones of color that take on a binary relationship. Light to dark, reflective to flat, they seem to turn on and off as your eye moves from one to the other. Engaging with both parts simultaneously, seeing the canvas as a whole creates an oscillation that grows in intensity as one approaches the surface. Once close, the layering effect becomes clear, both as an activity and a texture. Individual drips of color hum alongside one another like vibrating strings, while rivulets and delicate lattice-like interruptions in thicker curtains of paint reveal layers beneath them and obfuscate others. It is the interrogative examination of surface that sheds light on the basic material interactions at the heart of these paintings: oil vs. water, pigment vs. liquid, thin vs. thick, and Steir’s choice of color pushes this dynamic. Metallic paint creates passages of light that actively engage the illumination of the installation space, while the matte depths of darker tones create cavernous moments."