The painter Ron Gorchov died on August 18, at age ninety. In celebration of his work, we are sharing this review of Gorchov’s 1975 solo show at Fischbach Gallery by Edit deAk, published in our September–October 1975 issue. —Eds.
The recurring elements in Ron Gorchov’s shaped canvases are two marks in the center of a color field. The marks are symmetrical and vertical, and they reflect each other as the two sides of the human body do. The paintings themselves are curve-edged rectangles, either horizontal or vertical, with the corners of the stretcher rounded like four wooden elbows. The canvas surface itself is slightly concave and is cut just at the edge of the stretcher; glued to the support, it is slightly ragged since it is not hemmed. Each painting has two colors, one for the double mark, one for the ground. Mixed with white lead, the brilliant indigo, vermilion, emerald, cobalt violet, turquoise, ultramarine or cadmium (etc.) becomes heavily opaque, gaining a surface that enhances the visibility and play of the brushstrokes. The slippery, thick brush marks are generally busier and more patterned around the double motif, as if responding to a magnetic field—or like a concentric echo. In the latest paintings in Gorchov’s show, the brushstrokes were most directionally uniform; they were also in thinner layers or even simply laid on in one coat.
The presence of the double motif is constant, but its shapes vary from painting to painting. There are internal marks long enough to reach the top and bottom of the canvas; as if to compensate for their elongation, they may veer laterally to the left and right sides at the curvatures of the top and bottom. In other cases, the internal marks may be short and fat, or they may be wavery and worm-like—expressive, evocative. These motifs function both as images and as focal points—as locators in complement to the perimeter—or, poetically, like wounds in the heat of Passion. (Other titles are Brother, Promise, Life, Luck, Divine Light. This touching corniness, nowadays, seems to signal unhidden honestly.) Gorchov’s constant pairs of marks always remain fragile in their search for shape; they are informed by an awkwardness probably necessitated by a desire to put a personal twist into abstract painting without becoming literalist. These enveloping works are like so many radars simultaneously gathering and emitting. The personality of the pieces overwhelms the possible formal issues. In Gorchov’s idiosyncratic format, which is reminiscent of a medieval shield, there is no automatic anonymity of received structure. From the historical continuum which holds that the shallower the space of a painting, the greater the degree of accomplishment, Gorchov has evolved a very personal structure that expresses a particularized experience as human to human—maker to viewer. This provides a kind of seeing which makes one feel.