In first several paragraphs of the text THE NECESSITY FOR MAGIC IN ART (Bob Law, May 1964, available during the recent exhibition Bob Law: Castle XXXIX, 1976 at Erica Redling Gallery and at the gallery website) I find Law writing about “the first known gestures of communicable marks” Paleolithic hand impressions. The artist sketched out possible developments from the discovery of mark making: from impressions, to marking around one’s hand, then outlining another object to be represented, and so on. This felt pertinent as I looked at Law’s painting Castle XXXIX (1976) which is a plain rectangular canvas with a pen outline just inside the edge, all around. I’m not sure what I imagine the artist to be outlining, the simplicity of the gesture was quite affecting.
It might be that the inscribed line is “true” to something, maybe some other dimension, but the artist made it crooked in relation to the edge of his canvas – it veers a bit in at the bottom right and top left, like a parallelogram. I have read since the show that earlier examples of Law’s paintings include a date, and ones that were made very early included his signature. Why he slowly eliminated these marks I don’t know. It seems the outline always leans to the right.
The canvas is dirty white – I recognize now (and check the list to be certain) that white paint covers it, and the oil has texture. Looking outward from near the center, the ink pen mark fades to a haze and I think of the vague boundaries of time, and that these nearly disappear under scrutiny.
There is a partition wall facing the entry, and the painting hangs so it pushes forward as though in greeting. The lighting causes a shadow that recedes at the top and barely underlines the canvas at the bottom. Mostly the painting feels like surface, it ignores the room, Or does it? Hmm, yes – it does. Like James Turrell’s hovering squares of light yet unlike, in that Law’s painting does not require space – it creates space in my head – and also needs no apparatus beyond paint, support, canvas and a pen.
Information about Bob Law, pdf of The Necessity For Magic In Art here: http://redlingfineart.com/exhibition/bob-law-castle-xxxix-1976
Please note that in 1996 and in 1999 Marlene Eleini Gallery held solo exhibitions for Bob Law.