Explosions of color are presented in the solo-exhibition of collage paintings by Peter Plagens at Rule Gallery. Vivid color seeps into the paper, full chroma jars the eyes in staggering layers, there is depth, contradiction and spontaneity in the color, packed in relatively small frames. The largest paintings are 24 x 18 inches the smallest are 5 x 9 inches.
Willem deKooning used collage to his abstract compositions started. But for Plagens the collages are the abstract compositions. Tightly painted and layered compositions, some such as the Hey Diddle Dee Dee series features blocks of color or what Plagens calls “badges of color. In The Quality of Mercy series the watercolors are wet, bleeding, soaking the paper. In Art and Law and Death and Life, Plagens embeds imagery, text, but they are not the focal point of the work, the are surrounded by large grounds of vivid turquoise and green, shades of red, orange and fuschia, or whites and grays.
Plagens uses images and words in his paintings, but never made by himself. He even edits words and paragraphs to be nonsensical, intentionally cutting off the edges. These images are not real. They are not even images. They are just elements of Plagens abstraction. And much of Plagens painting is about the edges of the picture plane. He creates visual incidents where solid ground disintegrates, where color is messily spread around leaving gaps of raw paper or the edges become more and more muted and gray. All of which draw the eye back to the intensity of color. Plagens winds his paintings tight, cramming in an outlandish color pallet. It’s almost as if he’s compressed multiple paintings into one small space that might just burst from it’s frame.
Plagens describes the works as stories, often working in series or sets. Yet the sets are not narratives. The works are not necessarily connected, or make up a broader account of anything. Each piece is it’s own unique bit of entertainment. They are like a collection of short stories, that can be compiled into a book, but do not equal a novel.
These works are refined, yet boorish. Painting and text combined. Not surprising for the painter who is also a well-known art critic. Plagens’ paintings have finesse, but are not suave. They are peculiar yet appealing with their loopy rhythms and spunky spatial organization. They are complex, yet tightly edited. The way a writer should paint.
Love and War, and Other Non-Stories
Rule Gallery, Denver, CO
Closes October 29, 2011
This review originally appeared on adobeairstream.com.