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Prudencio Irazabal Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Natalie Rivera

Prudencio Irazabal, Untitled #773, 1997, 36"x36" acrylic on canvas on board

If you're familiar with Prudencio Irazabal's work, you already know when intending to survey his paintings you're in for art quality time. His first New York solo show at Jack Shainman in 1995 was a resounding success. There, Irazabal, a Spaniard based in New York since 1986, exhibited his so-called "monochrome" square paintings. So called because upon further examination you start to comprehend that in describing Irazabal's paintings, "monochromatic" is definitely a misnomer. At first glance the image rendered appears to have one color scheme. After further observation, various hues of colors seep through each work. As a viewer, you are curious to examine the painting more closely. That is when you notice the sides of the painting and the geographical layering that provide the color formula that Irazabal arrived at to produce a very causal image. Irazabal uses up to a dozen translucent shades which produce a surface that can measure up to an inch thick. The images have the feeling of a soft light glowing from within, leaving the edges a darker shade of the dominant hue.

In Irazabal's most recent exhibition at Jack Shainman we see the same modus operandi at work here, but better if possible. The show's title is "Chromatomy," literally Greek for color dissection. A fitting title, "Chromatomy" refers to the dividing up of color into its possible components. The artist states that the system of chromatic deconstruction is based on our subjective perception of color, and it is at this point that the observer's role becomes both active and essential. Since his last exhibition, Irazabal has been able to experiment, play, and develop his method of painting. Three large works, including two diptychs, demonstrate that Irazabal has been able to bring his art form to a larger scope. The work has become more developed and complex, the colors are vibrant yet not harsh. The patterns and grids that arise from the paintings are warm, seductive and inviting. I wouldn't be the first to say that Irazabal's work can evoke a very stirring yet easing response.

In untitled #767, Irazabal's most ambitious work so far, four panels (83" x 34" each) scan the gallery. At first sight, it looks like a white reflection is shining on the blood red canvas from a strong light source. With further examination we see that the white comes from the internal, not external surface. The experience is similar to encountering Barnett Newman's vir heroicus sublimis. Both paintings invite the viewer to walk right up and step into a field of red elemental drama. In untitled #784, a diptych, here Irazabal's complex images ascend with the semblance of a Spanish sunrise. Yellow arises from the center, leaving an orange-red glow bleeding around the edges.

Irazabal's earlier work dealt with the concept of skin and its epidermal layers. The paint acted as a metaphor for the body. Paintings that represented microscopic cross sections of biopsies developed indirectly to his layering of acrylic and its most recent outcome. Irazabal's work is of the European school linked to tradition and who considers its relationship to art history as decisive. There is a very stated connection between the importance of planning and the minimal fortuitousness of outcome. With Irazabal's work we experience a feast for the mind as well for the eye.

Natalie Rivera

New York, New York

1997

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