by Reagan Upshaw
Art in America
David Row’s paintings are abstractions that contain hints of realism, and handmade works that make use of the machine. They are constructed using screenprintIng and templates, but any machinelike precision is undermined by the artist’s smearing of the resulting shapes. Row’s cast of characters Includes ovals shapes of varying thicknesses; slender, irregular loops that recall the genetic material in cell division; spiraling helixes resembling DNA; and vague black-and-white forms resembling X rays. The scientific vocabulary seems appropriate here, for though the works are generally large, the imagery is curiously cramped, like a specimen on a microscope slide.
Row favors a standard compositional technique which involves sandwiching a dark, X-ray-like visual unit between two brighter ones. Such a visual reading, however, is contradicted by the physical reality of two unequal panels. Radha Dallies, for example, which appears to be a triptych, is actually a diptych, with the center motif being unequally divided between the left and right sides. This setting up a format and then subverting it increases the impression Row’s paintings give of energy straining to break free from tremendous compression.
The compositions are also enlivened by Row’s carrying over of a form, most often a helix or oval, from one part to another. Some ovals are rendered in red or orange paint that stops just short of being fluorescent against yellow. These may continue as an undercurrent in the black-and- white middle section and then reappear in different colors on the right. But all of the colors are built up, layer upon layer, and underlying pigments often bleed through. Their visibility at the edges where panels meet helps to signal the actual structure of the painting.
These are handsome works that bespeak intelligent planning and a willingness to temper simplicity of concept with complexity of execution