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Don Joint at Prince Street
Art in America,  Jan, 2005  by Lance Esplund

Don Joint's show of 17 abstract paintings and drawings, his first New York solo, was buoyant, fresh and lively. Joint's paintings, the largest just over 6 feet wide, consist of numerous puzzle shapes of hard-edged, mostly flat color that range in size from itsy-bitsy triangles to huge waves. The rushing color forms--ice cream pastels rocked by cool primaries, astringent yellows, oranges and greens--wobble and swoop and fold like origami and appear equally to burst outward toward the viewer and to race laterally through the plane.

Joint's allover, rainbow-colored oil paintings (all but one completed in 2002-04) rarely rest. It's as if the artist were wary of stasis or of empty space; he keeps us moving in a constant flutter from edge to edge across the paintings' rippling, warping surfaces, jumping and skipping from one shape to the next. Each canvas has its own temperament and surprisingly unique color range. In arabesque after arabesque--from mint green to salmon to periwinkle, from lavender to hot pink to deep forest green--we loop through the paintings, traversing crystalline contours with knifelike precision.

Despite all the carnivalesque commotion, which at times can be fatiguing, the paintings are light, fluid and airy. Rendered in a flattened perspective, the depicted scenes resemble the fictional worlds of strange, goofy game boards. In St. Francis Raising the Boy from the Dead, a small pyramidal form appears to give birth to a massive, reclining figure reminiscent of the Venus of Willendorf. In A Knight's Tale, rectangular structure and pattern repeatedly give way to jousting, sweeping curves and angles that, though always abstract, look like cartoon plants, hearts, wings and teardrops frolicking with one another in playful pursuit.

Joint has a varied hand. His pastel drawings feel loose, reworked and found, and his pen and pencil drawings are precise and fresh. Some of the drawings, like stained-glass tracery, are studies for the paintings. Others are works unto themselves. Joint distills some of his compositions from modernist and old-master paintings, including works by Giovanni di Paolo, Fuseli and Duly, and some of the shapes suggest birds, sails, figures, architecture and horizon lines. Even if you do not know their sources, the paintings clearly have stories to tell. Their enigmatic and joyous shapes make us want to unravel their origins and mysteries.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Brant Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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