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Michael Reafsnyder

In Michael Reafsnyder’s joyously frenzied paintings, each rectangular picture, with its layers of drips, swirls, daubs, and arcs, in every hue imaginable, was also a map of its own creation. Together with his cacophonous multicolored, biomorphic ceramic sculptures, these works seemed primarily designed to energize their audiences.

For his showy topography, Reafsnyder used a variety of application methods: spreading the paint with a flat edge, allowing it to drip from above, applying it directly from the tube, touching it with his hand (or perhaps his arm), or, while the paint was still sticky, lifting it off the surface. The lush, thick surfaces put one in mind of cake frosting as much as they did Abstract Expressionism. Arguably Gerhard Richter’s spirit was being channeled—and challenged—as was Jackson Pollock’s. For the only nonabstract element in the works, the artist used a primitive smiley face—two circles above an up- turned curve—as a deliberately silly trademark. This symbol appeared in most of the large works and reminded viewers not to take the art-historical references too seriously.

Above all, the lovely disorder of color in each gestural painting captured a sense of perpetual motion, and indeed the viewer’s eyes were compelled to keep moving within each work. The five sculptures in the rear gallery were displayed on individual plinths, and each reiterated the exuberance of the paintings. Titles such as Paint Feast, Love Field, and Good Day Sunshine (all 2010) also conveyed the artist’s impulse for excess and his feel-good approach to abstraction. —Doug McClemont, ARTnews

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