Paint: Medium and Surface
1260 Library Street
Detroit (south of Grand River Avenue)
Cafe de Troit
June 4 through July 1.
Victor Pytko is a somewhat unique figure in the art world. While the majority of artists gravitate towards a particular style or genre and never stray too far from this comfort zone, Pytko is constantly experimenting, traveling down paths taking him through the history of art as he continues to evolve in his own right. That he builds a seemingly schizophrenic body of work would be a no-no in terms of marketability. However part of the excitement in viewing a new body of Pytko’s work comes from discovering where he will go next. This boldness for change and growth, coupled with a tremendous amount of production, makes Pytko an inspiration to up-and-comers and established artists caught in a funk.
In his last exhibition (held at Jack Johnson’s former basement space, Musee D’troit, and Café de Troit) he offered up a look at his representative, en plein aire side, coupled with his more abstract persona. With this outing, he lets go of representation entirely and takes off into the realm of pure compositional play. Pytko strips the imagery clean of inference, reducing it to the base elements of the picture plane: lines, circles, rectangles, and the grid. If composition is of high importance for representative work, for successful abstraction every aspect of the painting has to offer nourishment to the eye. Using only these elementary components coupled with the use of color and texture, Pytko provides the viewer with a visual journey. Straight lines move the eye quickly along the line, but at the same time the line can serve as an edge between two distinct regions. The circular (often more modeled) forms are moments of rest or internal motion, but Pytko lets the viewer jump around by arranging small circles in succession (like sprocket holes in a film strip another metaphor for motion.)
Pytko achieves some of the compositional forms and their textures through some innovative techniques. String is stretched across the length of the panel to create straight lines – the effect is this jarringly solid line, that’s physicality adds greater presence to its compositional strength. Modeling paste is applied in a variety of methods to build up forms: Pytko squeezed “cookie cutters” like washers and porous dry wall tape. As with his previous venture into abstraction, he builds up some truly solid three-dimensional forms that give an added dimension (pun unintended) of movement to the composition.
By scraping each layer of acrylic as it is put down, he builds up ultra-thin layers of paint to create the illusion of color depth in what is actually a very thin surface. Further applications and removal allow for a translucent effect and thus a richness of color (think the shimmering of light through dragonfly wings.) While these paintings are perhaps mainly about composition, Pytko brings out a broad spectrum of colors that can at once serve as a dewy backdrop and then in the next moment their contrast creates a distinct break on the painting’s surface, causing one area to pop forward while the other recedes. The eye can drift lazily, then be forced to jump, to leap, and then come to a brief rest on a solid form before being sent off again. The scrape marks offer a different though related kind of movement and energy than that of brush strokes.
The juxtaposition of geometric forms and the action of painting present an interesting dichotomy and perhaps a metaphor for our own reality. There is order, but beneath it all there is the whirling unpredictable and richness that is chaos. Or to put in another way, there is chaos, and we try to place order over the top of it. This balance between order and chaos create what is in reality and what is in the picture plane.
Pytko may constantly reinvent himself, but it is all in service of a consistent quest: a better understanding of how the organization of an assortment of colored marks on a surface can become a moving, visual experience for a viewer. Pytko’s play with medium and surface becomes the viewer’s pleasure. – Nick Sousanis