Steve Rockwell, with a clear, clean, methodical series of works on paper, challenges the perceptions. He creates a number of responses to the works that transpire as a run of revelations, each transformative step in the process being predictable, much like a ritual initiation.
From a distance, the paper appears to carry an over-all color field. In some, a larger configuration of squares are part of the composition, much like Stella's work from the seventies or Mondrian's contrapuntal syncopation of the flat picture plane. The colouring is rich, even when it is pastel, as if there is a layering of tones.
Closer inspection reveals that the colour field is made up of thousands of minuscule circles or squares. The surface changes from being purely graphic and two dimensional to a reference to the third dimension. The stacking of the squares, depending on the colors (the classic trick of the eye where the lights come forward and the darks fall back) create the illusion of stairs , cubes or building blocks. The circles, when layered, become sculptural modules that suggest an architectonic space. From piece to piece, the range of visual differences is enlightening. The square configurations originally seen from the distance as fuzz, become firm with the realization that they are meticulously applied dots.
A new aspect of the transformation now occurs as the painter-liness of the application of the colour shows that each unit is hand painted and still retains the gesture of the application. The squares, particularly, read as a seemingly infinite number of small and perfect paintings that are interesting in themselves, square inch by square inch, and yet also demanding an attention as to how each section relates to the whole.
The next step in the Rockwell visual initiation is the concern over process. How was this accomplished? There are clues. The dots seem slightly raised on the edges as if the pigment had been applied through a template. An examination of the tiny squares yields the discovery of a penciled square in every configuration. The sheer mindfulness needed to accomplish the work becomes impressive. It is as if Steve Rockwell has decided to imitate a printing press, dot by dot or pixel by pixel.
The meditative repetition of this process also produces a sonorous effect on the spectator's eye. It is strenuous trying to discern the combinations of patterns, the links in directions and pathways that form the relationships between the individual units. So the final level left open to the spectator is one on which to de-focus, to rest in the fact that Steve has done the work, both mentally and physically, and it is time to enter the gates and enjoy the pleasure of a visual sensation.
Copyright © 2007, Julie Oakes