Alan Ebnother is the kind of artist who lives and breathes painting, for whom the materials of oil and pigment, and the process of their manipulation, transcend an interest in creating something with a particular look, rather presenting a continual voyage of discovery. As a young painter, he was drawn to the work of artists Joseph Marioni and Phil Sims, members of the New York-based Radical Painting group, whose shared aesthetic focused on monochromatic canvases-also proposing the disengagement of the profession of painting from the myriad concerns of the broader art world. The older artists took Ebnother under their wing, teaching him invaluable skills in handling pigment and oil mediums, learning to grind and mix his own colors.
Color, certainly, is Ebnother’s passion. Earlier bodies of his work solely explored variations on the hue of green; while this particular chroma continues to receive significant attention, he has since branched out into the full spectrum of colors. His self-imposed “rules” for a painting supply a kind of moral structure, imbuing a sense of integrity to the work that gives it dignity and power. For his latest show at George Lawson, Ebnother presented “twelve paintings” each 25-inch square, made of oil and dry pigment on linen. Ebnother, who was originally from the Bay Area, now maintains studios near Santa Fe, New Mexico, and just outside of Leipzig, Germany. #15, September 12th, 2015 suggests foliage, slathered in short, energetic brushstrokes of a muted, creamy green like split pea soup. The thickly impastoed strokes set up a dynamic rhythm, while strong diagonals, often ending abruptly in feathery tails, draw the eye up and down the canvas. A pair of inverted ‘V’ shapes near the top edge describe a hairpin turn of the brush, a thick rim of paint just below the curve documenting the residue of this swift motion, like a ripple frozen in water. While thick paint encrusts most of the canvas, the linen ground appears between the thick patches, its coarse texture asserting its presence. Thin underpainting in cobalt blue and mauve flickers around the edges. In #6, June 1st, 2015 a color like wet clay, just faintly greenish, meets a variation with a faint pinkish-purple hue. Thick strokes in scabrous textures scuttle this way and that. Bright greens and blues peek through. A trick of afterimage may be at play, further complicating the chromatic complexity. Ebnother, a former ballet dancer, deftly engages the viewer in the rapt choreography of his committed gestures.
#15, September 12th 2015
Oil, pigment, wax on linen
25 1⁄4″ x 25 1⁄4″
Photo: courtesy George Lawson Gallery