A longtime staple of the Butters Gallery stable, painter David Geiser takes off in fresh directions in the thought-provoking exhibition Fertile Ground. Based on Long Island, the artist works in a studio a stone's throw away from the late Jackson Pollock's old stomping grounds. Not insignificantly, Geiser's modus operandi owes more than a little to the gestural abandon pioneered by the iconic abstract expressionist. Deploying oil paint and other media to conjure vivid fantasias on natural processes, Geiser is a veritable guru of goop, splashing, splattering and dripping his materials onto wooden panels to evoke the messy spillages of magma, the movements of tectonic plates, and the viscous biological dreck seeping through our innards. Overlaying geological and physical imagery has been Geiser's stock and store for decades.
But with this exhibition, the artist changes his narrative for the first time. Instead of using paint to transliterate the language of nature, he simply uses paint to talk about paint itself. His employment of gold leaf in works such as Feathers heightens the unadulterated materiality of this new approach. In Untitled (3), he starts out with a typical Geiser technique, layering chalky red pigment over a cobalt underpainting, but then pointedly applies a gesture of thick, creamy impasto across the composition. This gesture does not appear spontaneous; it does not have the flow of molten ore or mucous; rather, it painstakingly evokes the history of 20th century painting in a way the late, great critic Clement Greenberg would have approved of. It is an endeavor not just to approximate natural processes, but to transcend them. It is a visual poem extolling the beauty of paint qua paint.
In other works, such as the expansively horizontal (8 feet long!) Sporetti, Geiser waxes rhapsodic about cobalt and cerulean blue. He does not handle this chromatic counterposition the way nature would; there is no gradual transition mimicking the gradation of blues in the sky or ocean. No, Geiser places the change abruptly at the composition's midpoint. If you want to revel in nature, he seems to suggest, go out into the mountains, the plains, the fields and streams. If you aim to revel in art, you need only venture into a gallery with your eyes and mind open.
SEE IT: Fertile Ground is showing at Butters Gallery, 520 NW Davis St., 2nd floor, 248-9378, buttersgallery.com. Closes Jan. 28.