Greg Stone’s works on paper at Pierogi 2000 evoke mirrored and multiplied geometries, and their immediate gestural effects fluctuate with the elusiveness of a flickering fire. Located in the Pierogi gallery adjacent to the retrospective exhibit of the late Mark Lombardi’s preparatory drawings, one realizes that the artists share an interest in the interstices between visible and invisible worlds. The cool and diagrammatic lyricism of Lombardi’s investigations into the dangerous world of capitalist manipulation surprisingly echoes Stone’s hallucinogenic and organic fields filled with networks of synaptic configurations.
Stone is an artist who acts as a filter through which thoughts and events—the general white noise of the streets of this Williamsburg neighborhood—are seemingly transmitted to the nerve endings of his vision and touch. He works within a visionary tradition and he constructs his paintings with grandly conceived geometries—the ellipse, the circle, the square, and the rectangle. Building them on the recto side of the paper, he delves into the possibilities and interior connections of his structures inch by inch. He then freely deconstructs their girdings and trusses by placing marks in such a way that the result is a film of images charged with energy and floating across the surface. The patterns of centrifugal force in “Circle Your Wagon,” or the expanding square-like structures of “Little Bang Theory” are examples of this.
The painting “Prayer” was done while listening to and watching the news about the war in Iraq. Constructed around an American flag that has been reproduced four times, the vertical stripes of the flag frame a central area whose 50 stars have been multiplied into four perpendicular bands, so that they lose their traditional form and become radiating spoke-like rays. In transforming the already bold abstraction of this 18th-century artifact, he subversively works within an aesthetic framework that evokes Middle Eastern and Islamic art. The flag has become a translucent object akin to layered skin. Released from the gravity of their traditional symbology, the patterns of the flag now reference a more universal freedom, one in which pattern and form are free to follow their existential necessities, rather than the strict and rational grid of historical tradition.
In earlier work, Stone used assemblage techniques that incorporated modern western identification systems with Old Testament, Islamic, and Sanskrit writings. His idea was to investigate the utilitarian attitude represented by numerical assignation, like telephone, credit card, and social security numbers, which he saw as the anonymous organization of members of a free democracy. He contrasted this with calligraphic and genealogical themes such as those he found in Hebrew and Islamic texts, which emphasize the relation between the mortal and divine through geometries connected to the spoken word and the visual arabesque.
The resulting strength of Stone’s process is an immediately sensuous and unified surface that the eye takes in at a glance, even as its intricacies become analogies for natural creation. Within this framework he creates a tense balance of opposites in which up and down, right and left retain an equivocal value, even as they remain in perpetual motion. All of these elements reflect his ongoing interest in Greek pre-Socratic philosophers like Heraclitus, for whom even fire observed the equilibrium of measure.
As a young artist in Williamsburg, Stone wanted to paint, but the most affordable materials were ivory black acrylic gel, or tar at $4.00 a gallon. He stayed with this material long enough to transform its trademark look of gritty and urbane art school chic into a sophisticated process that evades dissimulation.
Rachel Youens is a painter, writer, and teacher who lives in Brooklyn.