For his open studio, Russell Steinert’s series of paintings are dispersed amongst an open and spacious basement below Canal Street. The ceiling is high and the floor is a sprawl of dark cement. Tucked away in corners are rusty pipes, old doors and miscellaneous things. Some paintings are hung, others lean against walls; their soft vibrancy echo against the cool grey tones of the space. They are haloed in light supplied by an assortment of stand lamps and their contents sprawl in small bursts of delicate color across their canvases. Like seeing a vast mountainous landscape from afar, or a dramatic cloud-scape, Russell’s paintings are scroll like. They recall the delicacy, composition, and the sometimes quietness of Japanese landscapes painted onto folded screens. Like the cloudy mountainous scene of 16th century Japanese artist Hasegawa Tōhaku’s Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers, Russell paints concentrations of detail, dispersed by areas of stillness, onto surfaces that seem to subtly swim and dance. In a series of reddish-pink paintings displayed in unison on a wall, bursts of oranges, greens, reds, and blues coalesce on either ends of the panel until they quietly meet in the center. A wash of clear sizing mixed with red pigment on the raw linen creates the illusion of a hazy and misty atmosphere. Russell’s larger paintings are of the same vocabulary. Displayed in separation for the open studio, they present individual scenes of color in diagonals that create illusions of sky and earth moving against a vibrant grey wash on linen. His paintings may be viewed as distant scenes, yet they ask their viewer to examine their elements in detail. They present a dialogue of scale much like that of Tōhaku’s Eight Views: though less literal, one can imagine a figure wandering amongst a boundless mountain scape, or trees covered in hazy mist.
- Odette Steinert, Bard College