Massimo Audiello is another champion of the new painting. Audiello, who had a cutting-edge gallery in the mid-eighties, recently opened Audiello Fine Art in Chelsea. His well-regarded stable of young painters includes Juan Gomez, a 28-year-old Colombian abstract artist in love with big, smoky brushstrokes, and 27-year-old Andy Collins, who is currently in the M.F.A. program at the School of Visual Arts.
Gomez, who works in dumbo, the industrial neighborhood just under the Brooklyn Bridge, says that the tiny dimensions of his studio help inform his work, which has such suggestive titles as Any Lewd Debt and Licentious Chore. "It's a 100-square-foot space," says the artist. "I set the painting up and see which direction the paint strokes go in. I like to work really close and in your face."
Collins more obviously fits into the idea of pop figuration. He takes images from sources such as fashion magazines and plays with their negative spaces, eventually extrapolating pared-down forms that are neither abstract nor figurative but float provocatively between the two. Like those of Essenhigh and several of the other artists, his acrylic surfaces are so high-gloss that they shine.
Collins's studio is in a warren of tiny spaces in a School of Visual Arts building on West 21st Street. A transplant from Athens, Georgia, he moved to the city a year ago. Tall and lanky, Collins doesn't use an easel but kneels to paint his canvases, which are stacked up against the walls of his minuscule space. "I go through a convoluted process to make the paintings," he explains. "I work a lot from popular culture and magazines. I take forms and contours from magazines and make abstract paintings from them. I don't invent the forms. I just go find them and piece them together."
Collins points to a painting that looks like a silhouette of an antler. "It's sort of a parody of a dominatrix, an evil woman," he says, reluctantly explaining that the image was originally derived from the negative space in a spread in a fashion magazine featuring a lot of black leather. "My paintings titillate the viewer," he says. Collins's palette is deliberately pale, "wimpy colors," he says. "I want to make something people haven't seen before. I get excited when I come up with new forms.
With the interest in new painting percolating, the inevitable gallery hopping has already begun. Essenhigh left Stux to join Deitch, who is now experiencing his own defections. Wayne Gonzales, 41, joined the Tate gallery when it opened in September but has already left.
Gonzales, who once worked as Peter Halley's assistant, is one of the few to use a computer regularly as a drawing tool in his work. He morphs images, which he then paints: a building, say, or a generic escort ad from the Yellow Pages. Gonzales also likes to play with advertising logos, which he renders in a "sort of Blade Runnery way." He uses brash, industrial colors and carefully eliminates any hint of his handiwork.