Mark Daniel Cohen Rudolf De Crignis Changing Daylight Peter Blum Gallery There is a spareness that whelms as you enter the principal room of the Peter Blum Gallery, a reticence that billows up and blossoms about you. It trades on the still and supple winds of the intransient air, weaves on the windings of the unmoved motions hung in the breathing atmosphere. The nine paintings in state seem to rise to engulf you, to swim in a seemly movement to surround, as you almost descend to the silence of their gaze. You feel an urge to step down as you walk into the room, and admit to the hidden level of this circle of a rectangle, the wheel of a four-walled room, the theater of secret dramas, with the paintings erect and as silently watchful as monoliths in a megalithic round. They bear the reserve of a stateliness; they rise with the slow and intentional ascent of a straightening of the spine, the lifting serenity of a deep and calming resolve. There is to them the rectitude of precision, the rightness of the upright and deliberate, and of a thing thoughtfully done. Theirs is the dignity of the intrinsically self-aware, of something done without guessing. Done with exacting forethought, the self-regard of that which can be accomplished only by he who knows himself. The works and the room they infuse like a thurible - paintings of monochrome ultramarine gently modulated in steps, pacing their way in the stasis of turn in the room - breathe an aroma of aura, the delicate pressure of a pushing glow, for spareness is not merely a deduction. It brings with its resolve something more. Something has been added as the paintings have been penned to their seemingly single color, their like hues in blue, no two identical. Something undeniable, something found beyond what can be measured, something clearly and cleanly in them that is more than can be calibrated at the surface, more than can be courted in flourishes of paint or cunning of composition. For these nine remarkable works by Rudolf De Crignis, dating from last year and this, are nearly flat and receding panels of tone, windows of pull onto a realm of pure color, the Platonic form of the color in itself. Each work is ultramarine blue, set to a square - six measure 60 x 60 inches, the other three, 30 x 30 inches - and De Crignis has painted them in as many as 40 layers of translucent pigment laid on in horizontal and vertical strokes, layers of ultramarine interceded at levels by layers of other colors. Each wears its own combination of tingeing hues, dissuading the dominant blue with an internal sheen of something other: ruby red deep and royal blue in one, phthalo turquoise and royal blue in another, cinnabar green and Manganese violet red in a third. Each is subtly complexioned and blushed, made dense with the character of an individual nature, set off from the rest. Anterior to the paintings is an antechamber of introduction to the mode, the mode not of technique but of feeling, of the sense of the delicate press of a most tentative and wafting presence. Four drawings preside in the foyer of the gallery. Titled as paintings, distinguished by numbers, and all of this year, the four works are done in pencil and colored pencil on card paper. De Crignis has made his marks as he has laid the tones to the paintings: in vertical and horizontal lines, partially erased and mildly smeared, leaving only the most hovering of presences on the paper, the most evanescent of makings. And they leave in the eye - and in the nearly unheard tingle in the nerves, at the fingertips and in the scalp - a feel like the touch of a breath on the skin, like a brush of the hairs on the back of the hand, like a hush to the flesh, like the sigh of the gentlest contact. Like something there and not there, something in between, something that blossoms and expands and rustles about you the more and the better you know how little there is of it. Something that grows with its increasing dissuasion. But discussion of the painting and drawing technique is beside the point. One needs know nothing of it, unless one lusts for lessons in imitation. Monochrome painting, or radical painting as it is known, is generally delved by making much of its technical apparatus, by seeking what complexity may be found where the evident surface gives no complexity of appearance. Those who write and discuss it look for the complications of its painting when they can see no complications in its paint. But it makes little sense to interpret technique where the artist has deliberately buried and hidden his technique. The artist's attempt to avoid the virtues of evident painting cannot be claimed virtuous itself by arguing along the lines of evident painting. What matters more with monochrome paintings generally, and with De Crignis in particular, is the aesthetic rather than the paint - the quality of awareness rather than the thing made evident to awareness. It is all in the tinted air through which we see, the air tanged with the intercessions of tingeing layers, the air of the mind through which our awareness stretches, rather than that which we look at. And it is in the atmosphere within the paintings, not the sapphire midnight of their silently shifting tonalities. De Crignis has disposed his purpose in the state of mind he incurs. What is more evident than the painting technique - and as much the matter of the precisely turned awareness as is the quietly and nearly invisibly crafted surfaces of the works - is the way in which De Crignis has set off and held his paintings in a ritual of procession, for the paintings are arranged in a precise choreography within the main gallery. The nine works are placed in eleven spaces and set in a rhythm of large and small - a sequence of three of the larger works (60 x 60) on the left wall followed by one of the smaller (30 x 30), then the rear wall left bare, and then on the right wall, one large, two small, and finally two large: I, I, I, i - I, i, i, I, I. Between the first and second paintings on the left wall is a space large enough for another painting, but none is there. And, between the second and third paintings on the right wall (the two smaller ones on that wall) is a space almost large enough for another small one, but not quite. If another painting were added there, the intervals between the works would no longer be regular. Furthermore, all the large paintings are hung at a height, as all the small paintings share a different height - with one exception. The third painting on the right wall, the last of the small works in the sequence, is set lower than the others of its size. Thus, the sequence finally is: I - I, I, i - I, i - i, I, I. The precise coding of the sequence could not be the issue, and it is not. What is to the purpose is the presence of pacing, the evident pulse of a tempo, the measure of a beat, a series of regularity with principles of variation, the same over and again but with changes at every step - a rhythm, as of music, a positioning of intervals. The interval is the space of De Crignis' encroachment, the native field of the awareness he invokes, the rising and billowing aura that attends the approach of his paintings to the viewer, the surging incursion of their tentative and hovering state. It is the range of the demeanor of their dignity. It hangs in the durable air as a suspension of all that is known, a place between every one thing and every other, a recession to depths that yawns in the half moment between every two - the infinity that opens in every crack in the norms of experience. A space that is between the moments, like the sustenance of a note - not the instant of the striking of a chord, and not the maintained reverberations of a note that echo into time and diminish in a dying fall of dropping intensities, with the vibratory resonances beating to a closing eventuality. The interval is the note held and even, without the pulsing of insistence, without the dripping away of tempo - the hum of an eternity all in the now, all at once. It is the music with every note become every other - all the music at once. The interval is everywhere in De Crignis' exhibition, in the regularity of the dimensions of his squares, in the regular beat of the dispositions of his paintings on the walls, in the evenness of hue to every painting, in the gaping spaces that each painting is and the gaping spaces that open twice in the sequence of them - regularities with variances: in the hues that each work blushes differently, in the height that shifts down once, in the breaks in the sequence that do not match each other in the openings they offer for paintings that are not there. And that interval takes and fulfills its temper in the depthlessly mysterious tone of the ultramarine: a hue of rich encompassment, a rapture of calm composure - a wall porous to the searching probe of the timing eye. It is a hue of the interval itself, a tone that envelopes, that wraps the eye and draws it off, to a place of time suspended - of notes known forever, of music all at once, of music stilled and alive at the skin. For in the interval, in the moment maintained, in the imaginative realm of De Crignis, time becomes as a space, as a range of an intimate presence rather than a procession of events, a counted stop and not a flowing drift. Time becomes as the holding of a breath, as an intake of air held as a grasping of life, as a straining in the chest of hope, of chances, as the opening of possibilities and the acquisition of visions. The interval is time drawn in as an inspiration - as known from the Latin, as the breath of infusion into the mind drawn from some agency divine, the mind infused and inflating. And De Crignis' nearly mystical ultramarine is the blue of the fathomless sustenance, the sustaining suspension of the calming resolve, the accomplishment of he who knows something more than himself.