Gary Petersen is originally from Staten Island, has a studio now in Bushwick, and lives full-time in Hoboken, NJ. Yet the artist’s statement on his homepage states an interest in forging a “California/pop sensibility.” He’s done it.

A few new works recently showed at the Madelyn Jordan Fine Art Gallery‘s “Survey of Brooklyn Art” in Scarsdale, NY. Several things immediately stood out about Petersen’s work:

For one, though geometric and abstract, his compositions are not ideological like early 20th century modern styles such as supremacism or neo-plasticism. Instead, they are a pastiche of midcentury American modernism, meaning over-the-top optimistic despite the reductionist proclivity. These days, art critics call the style “meta-modernism” for its self-referential nod to convention.

Secondly, Peterson’s colorful shapes and line-angles taper off into thin strips that have a distinctly ’60s animation vibe. Some of the works appear to be doorways or windows, and, in fact, Petersen calls one of his newest paintings “Entry.” If this description conjures thoughts of midcentury Cali abstractionist Richard Diebenkorn, the work is much more Saul Bass, if Saul Bass made ’60s hotel curtains or throw pillow patterns. There is even an echo of the vibrancy and color palette of narrative kitsch painter Shag, though Petersen reduces it all to minimal, sub-geometric strokes.

If this sounds like a put-down of Petersen, it isn’t. The very frivolity of his work makes it worth seeing. As the western world feels often on the brink of revolution these days, much of the art coming out of gentrified neighborhoods in Brooklyn are starting to remind me of the late 18th century French rococo, with its inward-looking “Let them eat cake” attitude. Whether Petersen endorses or challenges that notion in his work is hard to say. His paintings are brazen and, at the very least, engender a response. (Brian Chidester)

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