Three countries, one decade multiple universes
By Cate McQuaid
Terry Rose’s paintings are experiments. His process involves mixing dry pigments and oils into layers of liquid varnish applied to an aluminum panel laid flat. The materials react — dispersing, puddling — sometimes with the aid of a hairdryer.
Rose died last month, at 78, of esophageal cancer. His show at Gallery NAGA gathers work from the last decade, over which time he lived in the United State, China, and Mexico. It mostly features paintings on aluminum — astral or aquatic works — but includes a couple of detours.
In Shanghai, the artist made porcelain vessels. Each takes the same form, all bumps and creases and tiny planes, as if shaped over crumpled newspapers. These glossy vessels stoop or lean. With that slight bend and a wide mouth, they look deferential. Humbler than his paintings, with their voluptuous mists. They’re like color field paintings, with less color and no soak.
“Silla,” on aluminum, revolves around a miraculous, black jellyfish-like form, blossoming and oddly luminous against a silvery ground. It opens at the top and emits snowflakes — chattering, granular white bits, riding on the surface, as the black form seeps ominously below.
Rose could, over time, predict how a solution might move, what patterns, shadows, and striations it would make, but every pour was full of unknowns. In that single black blot, he discovered blushes of light, pleated edges, petals, and wisps.
While in China, Rose found his preferred aluminum scarce, so he painted on canvas. The process is similar, but there’s more hands-on brushwork. And it looks different – more concrete, less endlessly fluid. Some pigments cake and crackle, but Rose still stirred up streams and vapors.
“Ni-Shi,” on a stark black ground, could be the Big Bang. A creamy, cyclonic form in the middle trails into milky dapples, and spawns a fiery orb cradled in turquoise and gold. Chutes of brushed paint suggest motion, or perhaps meteors.
Rose was fascinated with what his materials might yield. In his paintings, they yielded universes.
TERRY ROSE: USA>China>Mexico, 2007-2016
At Gallery NAGA, 67 Newbury St., through July 14.617-267-9060, www.gallerynaga.com