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regory Botts’ work stems from his thirty-year experience of painting directly from nature and then using those plein-air paintings as a source for large, more-or-less abstract studio paintings. He has painted in some of the most extreme picturesque American landscapes and recorded his experiences with a deft touch and a fluent brush. But the paintings in this exhibition don’t stop there- where Boudin, Marquet and Fairfield Porter worked- they step farther into an invented pictorial space. By dissecting the landscape into its component parts and remixing the elements into montage compositions, Gregory’s paintings link abstraction and representation and are simultaneously fluid and architectonic. Occasionally, a geometric color form is superimposed over a landscape, like a metaphysical billboard advertising the marriage of idea and actuality.

The first paintings I knew of Gregory’s were done in an improvised outdoor studio in a stand of eucalyptus trees surrounded by an estuary in Isla Vista, California. Those black and white paintings didn’t simply relay the extraordinary beauty of the place. Instead they interpreted the rush of our experience walking in the landscape as our heads bob and our eyes swim in the field of vision. In those 1980’s paintings Greg mastered a densely layered grisaille with a Franz Kline-like surety of painterly gesture. Twenty years later Gregory’s paintings are clearer - like giant watercolor frescos weaving together his experiences in other landscapes such as the desert near his studio in Abiquiu, New Mexico or the mountains around Aspen, Colorado. His process of painting outdoors enlivens his studio geometry with light and moisture and air. In the way Marsden Hartley makes baguette clouds or Marin paints waves like scratchy lightning, Gregory transforms his motifs, painting Aspen trees swooning in gold light like elegant actors in a Japanese Noh play or black sunflower silhouettes arching like overhanging streetlamps against a big blue New Mexico sky.

In reference to the discussion in Gregory’s work between the real and the abstract, it’s possible to see Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings as resembling the thickets and bushes around his studio in Springs, Long Island. The post-Hoffman group of New York painters such as Leland Bell, Louisa Matthiasdottir, Paul Resika, Peter Heinemann and Paul Georges whose work collectively influenced Gregory as a young painter, forged a school of painting from life that was nonetheless drenched in the abstract language of picture making. Gregory comes out of these different traditions and is the logical inheritor of their artistic generosity.

He emerges innocently but not naïvely into a world where nature threatens to become somehow “unnatural.” Yet when we view the still sublime landscape through the prism of Gregory’s sensibility, experience and identification with place, we are made to perceive the powerful relationship that continues to exist between nature and painting and us.

Steven Harvey
NYC 10/06

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