New Yorker Michael Rouillard’s exhibition “Framed Light 2005-2011,” while certainly an exploration of light via effulgent color of the sort that is characteristic of the art shown at Charlotte Jackson’s gallery, was simultaneously a dizzying demonstration of just how razor-thin painting can physically be while still having substantial visual impact. Rouillard’s 13 works are adept explorations of tension between surface and depth; his tall panels, fashioned from aluminum sheets the thickness of a Necco wafer and painted in oil or oil stick, are always demarcated at their perimeters by an infinitesimal but unmistakable line. Their tonalities range from the brooding brown and deep blue, with a zap of cobalt, in one melancholic untitled work to the sunflower hues of Addendum and Chroma.
Rouillard clearly draws on the architectonic work of such progenitors as Josef Albers and Barnett Newman. The artist’s knack for exquisitely calibrated proportion is strongly reminiscent of Donald Judd. (In fact, an ongoing and significant component of Rouillard’s enterprise has been the construction of freestanding structures and site-specific installations.) Aside from the use of aluminum, there is another strong kinship between Rouillard and Judd in Rouillard’s pulsing color, which is not unlike that of Judd’s metal and fluorescent Plexiglas boxes of the ’80s.
While Rouillard’s paintings are emphatically flat upon the wall, they nonetheless convey depth. This arresting effect can likewise be attributed to very limited juxtapositions of hues: lilac streaking across vivid red and orange, or brilliant yellow edging around an expanse of powder blue.
Some works in this exhibition, such as Ion and Moment, return to a technique the artist has used previously with success-applying ball-point pen to paper that he then adheres to aluminum panels. These surfaces, marked by obsessively worked pen strokes, characterize the most subtle and subliminal pieces on view.
For this viewer, however, the most striking and original paintings were three (Red Rise, Lighter Still and an untitled work) that, because the bottoms met the gallery floor, created a quite plausible doorway effect, as though one might find entry through the panels into a luminous space. At 108 by 43 inches, these “doorways” rather dominated the installation; they were profoundly architectural, not least because they tended to alter our perception of the gallery space itself.
Photo: Michael Rouillard: Untitled 2 (left), and Red Rise (right), both 2007, oil on aluminum, each 108 by 43 inches; at Charlotte Jackson.