Don Joint at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art

Don Joint, The Nightmare After Fuseli (2005), oil on marble, 14″ x 16″; courtesy Francis Naumann Fine Art

The painter Don Joint is in love—in love, that is, with marble. Mr. Joint’s recent efforts in oil, on display at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, are the result of a chance encounter with a still-life painted on marble by the 18th-century Dutch artist Gerard van Spaendonck. Attracted to the tactile qualities of white marble—its density and texture, its capacity to accentuate the properties of oil paint through the transmission of light—Mr. Joint employs it as a support for his clean and crisp brand of geometric abstraction.

Actually, “abstraction” is something of a misnomer: Each of the pictures is based on an Old Master painting. But don’t call what Mr. Joint does appropriation; his puzzle-like riffs on Masaccio and Fuseli are deeply felt valentines to the tradition of Western painting. However buoyant and whimsical the paintings may be—Necco wafers seem to be the primary inspiration for Mr. Joint’s palette, Yellow Submarine for his sense of form—they are rigorously, if not slavishly, grounded in precedent.

The Spaendonck painting is included at Naumann as a point of reference. It’s a fetching object, but the use of uninflected marble as a backdrop for a floral arrangement is, at least in this example, a decorative fillip and nothing more. Mr. Joint goes Spaendonck one better, allowing the milky surface of the marble to provide color and shape.

These are Mr. Joint’s most assured and satisfying compositions to date, but one can’t help but wonder if the paintings aren’t a bit stifled by the attention bestowed upon their support. As subtle and beautiful as its properties may be, the marble never quite yields its material hold—it’s always there, snagging the eye. Let’s hope Mr. Joint’s experiment with marble turns out to be a passing fling and not true love. Credit his gifts as a painter—and his quirks—that we delight in the pictures all the same. Here is a rare artist whose skill can make you look forward to the future with anticipation and optimism.

© 2006

A version of this article originally appeared in the January 22, 2006 edition of The New York Observer.

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