Shotgun Reviews

Noam Rappaport: Dogleg at Ratio 3

Noam Rappaport. Dogleg, 2015; oil, acrylic, high-density foam, paper, canvas; 90 x 55 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco.

Noam Rappaport. Dogleg, 2015; oil, acrylic, high-density foam, paper, canvas; 90 x 55 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco.

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Justin Mata reviews Noam Rappaport: Dogleg at Ratio 3 in San Francisco.

Noam Rappaport’s artwork exists in a continuum of modernist object-making, a growing history of formal exploration. The works in Dogleg at Ratio 3 fit seamlessly into conversations about minimalism, abstract expressionism, and color field painting, but they are not dated. Any similarities to his aesthetic predecessors are unironic. Rappaport’s work feels soothingly honest because he does not quote giants of art history but instead investigates specific forms and colors to construct a highly distinctive visual vocabulary.

Rappaport’s roughly seven-foot paintings feature shaped canvases on which rectilinear forms intersect with and overlap each other. The works have intensely saturated layers with loosely brushed washes or, occasionally, heavy slathering of paint and medium. Stick-like pieces of painted wood appear in some, adding elements of line to the composition. Light washes of sky and aqua blues produce fields of shimmering color and a sense of ephemerality or movement, a possible nod to Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series (1967–1988) with his wash-like compartmentalization of color. In contrast, the thicker impasto areas of blacks, brick reds, and vegetal greens immediately ground some paintings, laying claim to the wall. In Dogleg (2015) these techniques play off one another, fighting for space in a canvas that looks like two elongated rectangles colliding. These shaped canvases rely on the gallery wall as a compositional element of the work in a way that recalls the late Ellsworth Kelly’s shaped paintings. Both artists’ works become almost graphic elements of the total architecture of the gallery.

In contrast to the paintings, the hanging sculptures are modestly sized, no more than twenty-three inches in any direction. Featuring dense pigment on wood and aluminum, the materials absorb light off of the surface, leaving profound depths of color. The works have mirrored compositions, with key elements (such as holes or intersections of planes) located in the center of the work, creating symmetrical tops and bottoms with slight hints of linear perspective. The receding spaces created by this perspective, coupled with subtle shadow play, make the sculptures feel more substantial than their humble dimensions, implying angles and geometries that resonate outward into the cavernous Ratio 3.

Eventually Rappaport’s investigations become stalled by a monotony of form. The artist made several of the paintings from the same template, which would seemingly generate compelling studies in seriality, but instead results in a limited vocabulary. The artist has ultimately restricted the elements of the paintings and sculptures in his obsessive search for the ideal combination of composition, color, and texture. He found his personal visual language, one steeped in the rich history of modernist painting. Now what else can he say with it? 

Noam Rappaport: Dogleg is on view through February 27, 2016, at Ratio 3, San Francisco.

Justin Mata is an artist and writer living in San Francisco. He received his BFA from California College of the Arts and his MFA from the School of Visual Arts.