John Seery came to prominence in New York some four decades ago as a central figure in the Lyrical Abstraction movement--a response by younger painters to the aftershocks of the Abstract Expressionist supernova and the pervasiveness of the Color-Field nebula. Lyrical Abstraction was an extended investigation into what else could be done with painterly gesture and nuanced expanse, a way of accepting the limits of the picture plane while refreshing its poetics. Seery's approach back then was to mingle clearly and loosely defined, translucent and opaque forms in an especially dilated field, one which seemed to breathe out with the reach of the brushstroke and breathe in with the staccato of often-patterned edges. To judge by the several recent canvases shown in California, at Garboushian Gallery in Beverly Hills--one of Seery's rare public outings over the past twenty years--he has lost none of his abilities to orchestrate forms and seduce the eye through color. But the game of seduction is played at once more coyly and more roughly, and Seery poses himself yet more formidable orchestration challenges. He hews closer these days to the grit and clangor of Abstract Expressionism itself, filling his paintings with argumentative swaths and teasing drips of paint and relying on color decisions that range from the acid to the saccharine--a range that can play out in a single canvas. As might be inferred, a wry and taunting humor inflects this work, the humor of a veteran craftsman cranky with ideas and impatient with anything that doesn't test his mind and hand--and our eyes. "Our eyes" include those of his fellow artists: Seery is willing to tweak convention, conjuring the tendrils of Miro and even the candy washes of late Chagall in precisely the same precinct that he re-kindles Hofmann's fervid blocks and Pollock's anguished trails. This is beautiful painting, but it is not pretty painting, and it's some of the bravest painting that Seery--or anyone of his ilk--has done in some time.
This article was written for and published in art ltd. magazine