Gerard Stricher’s Striking Abstract Synthesis

Written by: Peter Wiley

Gerard Stricher

In the mid twentieth century, French painting and American painting seemed to represent opposite aesthetic poles. Smarting from European dominance of art for many centuries, the Abstract Expressionists sought to steamroll French finesse with their brash new style. In the postmodern precincts of the present century, however, it is now possible for an artist to enjoy the best of two worlds, as the French artist Gerard Stricher apparently has in his paintings on view at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, from from June 27 through July 17. (Reception: Thursday, July 2, from 6 to 8 PM.)

For Stricher’s large oils on canvas appear to combine Abstract Expressionist energy with School of Paris refinement in a manner that sets his work somewhat apart from both schools and lends it a distinct character of its own. Perhaps that Stricher, who painted as a young man, took up his brushes again after having had a long and successful career in business, had something to do with how his style has evolved. Starting over as a mature artist, he seemed to know exactly how to begin.

In a recent artist’s statement, Stricher, who lives and works in Paris, cited the influence of nature and growing up in a family “where art was all over the place” as important factors in his work. And both can be readily discerned in the lyricism and art historical sophistication of his paintings. Perhaps his greatest asset as a painter, however, is his skill and sensitivity as a colorist, even when working with a single color as he does in two sumptuous oils on canvas, titled respectively “Blue Day” and “Flying to the Sea.” Both compositions are literally saturated in brilliant blue hues that light appears to glow through. Like all of Stricher’s paintings they are altogether abstract, yet permeated by a strong natural allusiveness, as though the shadowy shapes lurking pregnantly just below the surface of his semi-translucent oil washes are on the verge of morphing into recognizable landscape or marine subjects. However, Stricher invariably pulls back from direct representation, perhaps in order to retain the sense of mystery and abstract autonomy that makes his paintings so fresh and compelling.

In other paintings, as well, where he explores a more varied palette of reds, greens, yellows, and other hues along with the ceruleans and ultramarines that seem to dominate many of his compositions, Stricher creates a shimmering chromatic effect, both with vigorous strokes, and possibly a process of wiping some of the pigment away with rags soaked in turpentine. Not that one would assume to guess how Stricher actually achieves his subtle coloristic alchemy, which can remind one at times of the great British landscape master J.M.W. Turner’s “tinted steam,” as his admiring fellow artist John Constable once referred to it. .

All one can say is that Stricher imbues his canvases with a sense of atmospheric light that is quite rare in contemporary abstraction, particularly in paintings such as “Hiding in the Purple Forest,” and “The Golden Hair,” where rhythmic effusions of green, yellow, and purple hues fairly illuminate the compositions.

Indeed, Gerard Stricher’s chromatic luminosity, combined with a sense of spontaneity that results in an exhilarating gestural vivacity, imparts to his paintings a singular aesthetic resonance, uniting in a striking synthesis aspects of abstract painting that were once thought to be irreconcilable.

Image Credits: Recreation Oil on Canvas, 64" x 51"

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