Tender, Tenacious and Forceful: The Prints of Paul Resika

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Paul Resika, Three Sailboats (1997), etching, 17-2/4″ x 26″; courtesy VanDeb Editions

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Scan the literature on veteran New York painter Paul Resika and you can’t help but note the repeated plaudits for his skills as a colorist. A student of Hans Hofmann, Resika absorbed the older artist’s emphasis on color as the prime motivator of the painter’s craft. But Resika’s gift for color may be most fully realized in his prints. That the majority of them are in black and white isn’t a back-handed compliment. “Black is a force”, Matisse declared. Resika, no mean devotee of the French Master, explores black in a manner that is, by turns, tender, tenacious and, yes, forceful.

In Resika’s intaglio prints, gritty fields of aquatint are emboldened by staccato hatching; clubby lines dance upon zooming, milky expanses; and dense swaths of texture both set off and engulf Resika’s motifs: boats, lighthouses and nudes on the beach. All the while an encompassing range of gray, black and, at times, electric white imbue the proceedings with drama, mystery and, here and there, comedy. What else are we to make of the Surrealist forms galumphing through Clouds (2001) or the Thurber-esque whimsy informing White Cloud (1997)?

DCF 1.0Paul Resika, Vessels Meeting (2001), etching, 20″ x 25″; courtesy VanDeb Editions

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Elsewhere, severity presides—Resika distills his forms with iconographic concision—and antiquity is touched upon. Endymion (1995) refers to the Greek tale of the moon falling in love with a mortal, but the preternatural disc that regularly hovers over Resika’s panoramas taps as much into the enduring power of myth as it does to the nighttime sky. The moon allows Resika poetic wiggle-room to amplify the associative capabilities of even the most bare-bones geometry.

If Matisse is the touchstone for Resika’s palette, then Picasso is the signpost for Resika’s dedication to printmaking. Like the inescapable Spaniard, Resika is an artist for whom the medium is considerably more than an addendum to working with oil on canvas. Printmaking is a vital—indeed, inseparable–component of his vision. Newcomers to Resika’s prints will glean that much in short order and revel in the amplitude he brings to the venerable artform.

© 2013 Mario Naves

The essay appeared in a catalogue that accompanies Paul Resika; Silent Poetry, an exhibition at VanDeb Editions.

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