In my experience, "alternative spaces" are too often alternative in name only. The idea is that you can see work in them which you can't see in a commercial gallery, but normally all I find is the same kind of art I see in commercial galleries, but less good. One exception was the paintings by Sholto Ainslie, a native of South Africa, that I saw in August at the Chashama Gallery on West 42d Street, in a show sponsored by CrossPathCulture, a non-profit organization. The gallery is a theater lobby, but Ainslee is a 38-year-old color-field painter who emigrated to the U.S. in the 8Os. He couldn't establish a reputation in the 60s or 70s, when Manhattan was more open-minded about color-field painting than it is today. This makes his painting a kind that few commercial galleries will bet on. One day, the rest of them will regret it.
I decided that this show was extremely refreshing, although perhaps some paintings in it had been done a bit hastily. In general, Ainslee combines gel and pieces of fabric with paint to create a lava-like texture. This can be very harmonious, but led occasionally to muddiness or coarseness. Still, the three best pictures came off well indeed: "Kimono Dragon," a large horizontal in greens and blacks on white; "Synthetic Illumination," with small horizontal pieces of fabric embedded in it, and mixed, muted colors; finally, "Tectonic," a medium-sized vertical canvas, in blues, purples, silver and grays. Handsome, very handsome. Not only would I say that this is the best show I've ever seen in a theater lobby, but it is even better than 90% of what I saw in Chelsea and SoHo the last time I looked.In July, I wrote that Francine Tint, an earlier and much better known color-field painter, would have a show in September at Atelier International in SoHo. Little did either of us know that by September, SoHo would be in the war zone. To say that attendance was poor would be like saying that hell is merely warm, but the gallery o extended the show through mid-October, so I saw it and enjoyed it. I don't feel that Tint broke any radically new ground here, but Clement Greenberg used to say that much of our best recent art doesn't amaze by its newness, or words to that effect. Tint has always been a fine and thoughtful painter, and she definitely continued to display these qualities.
"The Reef and "Paradise Island" stood out for me, two small pictures that resembled others Tint has made recently, with heavily-crusted and usually glossy paint and gel. I also felt that "Purple Fog," the biggest painting in the show, was admirable. It had a grey/blue field with blue/green smears, and narrow light pink graffiti-like looping lines around the edges. Normally, I resist graffiti. Those angry little scribbles in 60s Twomblys irk me, but Tint's graffiti were soft enough to convey only a gently tousled quality, and the center of the painting had instead a sturdy row of grit sealed in by paint. Denying Yeats, that center held.
In October, Peter Reginato invited me to his loft to see his latest sculpture. (Isn't it nice to know that even in the war zone, artists are still making art?) I was struck by the first piece I saw from the door, which was totally unlike the works Reginato had in his last show at Adelson. Those were made of brightly-painted, organically-shaped sheets of metal, joined with curly round strips, also of brightly-painted metal, plus sheets of Plexiglass.
The tall sculpture facing the door was made of unpainted, starkly vertical pieces of metal, jammed together into a bristling tree-like shape (with another piece of Plexiglas). At first glance, this sculpture was dominated by straight lines, but closer examination revealed that its pieces had curved shapes cut out of them: they were scraps from which Reginato had cut the pieces used for his painted sculptures. He said these were the negatives of his positives, though in my ornery way, I thought you could also say they were the positives of his negatives.
in any event, one represented the cheerier, more outgoing aspect of his oeuvre; the other, its more upright, aggressive side (both essential in different ways). Next, Reginato showed me what he had really asked me down to see, five pieces similar in style to the work in the Adelson show, but smaller and sitting on the floor. They had a perky look, somehow symbolic of courage beneath oppression, and remarkably relevant to the moment. I liked all five, especially the smallest one in Reginato's living area, and the one in the working area that he said reminded him of Giacometti's "Woman With Her Throat Cut," except that he felt his was more like "Woman Recovering From a Surgical Operation." He explained that he figured Giacometti had been thinking of a bad relationship he'd been in, but that it had happened back in the 1930s, whereas his own piece was made in the 21st century, when the status of women is different. Yes and no. It's true enough so that male artists like Reginato will invite female critics like myself to see the insides of their studios, and for the pleasure and insights thus afforded I am grateful.
Copyright 2001 by Piri Halasz. This article is excerpted and adapted from Piri Halasz' online column, (An Appropriate Distance) From the Mayor's Doorstep, whose website is http://piri.home.mindspring.com Peter Reginato