Sunday, November 19, 2017

Evert Witte at Cole Pratt

The thing about the Dutch is that they are always, somehow, indelibly Dutch -- especially their visual artists. I mean that as a complement. Although the precise realism of Vermeer, the post-impressionist brio of Van Gogh and the bold yet orderly abstraction of Mondrian seem very different, look again -- the common thread is their pristine lyricism, a lucidity tinged with a touch of mysticism despite being rooted in that most practical of nationalities. In 1993, Dutch artist Evert Witte took a road trip across the U.S. that led him to Nola. He has been around here, more or less, ever since, painting in his unique manner, as if early Mondrian took a side trip through latter 20th century America before ending up in a studio off Carrollton Avenue just in time for the post-postmodern new age of abstraction. The look is still preternaturally Dutch, but with coolly elusive, jazz fusion overtones. 
Casta Diva, top left, is emblematic -- a loose fandango of pale aubergine and zinfandel loop-de-loops cavorting in an ethereal psychic safe space that suggests how Mondrian might have painted had he lived long enough to hear David Bowie's song lyrics about “Quaaludes and red wine.” Despite looking so wavy-gravy, everything is situated in its proper place with deft Dutch perspicacity. Callas in Blue is almost like a painterly interpretation of George Gershwin's jazz-inspired composition, Rhapsody in Blue, but its indigo-infused polka dots and rectangular slashes on a shimmering sea of Curacao suggest a bluesy precursor to Mondrian's own jazzy, Broadway Boogie-Woogie. But Don't Ask Willie, above left, is more like a rhapsody in beige and smudged umber, cappuccino and milk froth, all arranged in jazzy, angular slashes that resonate like Charles Mingus playing a slow dirge on his string bass. Miles, top, extends the beat in a composition that mingles the staggered angularity of lower Manhattan on a gray autumn day, with hints of Japanese Zen drawing's lyrical transcendence, in a visual allegory of Witte's world journey from his old Holland home. Inventory of the Possible: Abstract Paintings by Evert Witte, Through Nov. 25, Cole Pratt Gallery, 3800 Magazine St., 891-6789.