Rudolf De Crignis
Peter Blum Gallery 

What I say to myself — who says it? Who does he say it to?
Antonio Porchia, “Voices”

In his current show at the Peter Blum Gallery in Soho, Rudolf De Crignis presents two groups of works, 
one essentially blue and one essentially gray. For De Crignis, like Yves Klein, ultramarine blue is his 
primary vehicle, but unlike Klein he uses it with other colors. The series of gray paintings emerges from 
a dialogue of complementary colors. A modest brochure details what information you need in order to be 
able to see the work. Everything has been done with an eye to precision.

Last spring I saw Rudolf De Crignis’s installation of monochrome paintings at the Bonn Museum 
in the former capital of West Germany. The conditions for viewing them were just right, though I would 
never have known that until I found them there in a light that enabled me to see into the particular depth 
of their surfaces.

These paintings are made by building up layers of semi-transparent paint in glazes until a kind of 
membrane-like surface is achieved that is permeable from both sides. In just the right light, a natural light 
preferably, you can sense a penetration through the discrete layers that bounces the light back from the 
original grounding layer and informs you of the depth and density traversed. Once seen this plastic 
experience becomes a memory that makes the membrane visible in any other light.

In the world of these experiences the object becomes a paradigm of the act of seeing it and so it raises 
the question of which came first, your knowing of it or your seeing of it.

Seeing De Crignis’s work in Bonn immediately evoked a memory of a mental image formed some 
years before when I was reading Delueze’s reading of Leibnitz. He is describing the imperative for 
the body in relation to mind in the experience of knowing/perceiving. I envisioned this complex 
interaction of the inner and outer worlds as a membrane permeable from both sides with an infinity of 
monads pressing forward to negotiate the transition. Whatever effected one side was inevitably reflected 
on the other, however it was being mediated by the interpenetration of the monads. It was possible for me 
to see in De Crignis’s painting a subtle and precise rendering of this delicate membrane since I 
already knew of it.

In the spacious room of Blum’s gallery there are moments when the light reflecting back through 
these interior layers of colors make the resulting grays seem quite luminous. This challenge to 
Wittgenstein’s proposition that  “Whatever looks luminous does not look gray. Everything 
gray looks as though it is being illuminated” can be reasoned in several ways. Though these gray 
paintings seem to be both gray and luminous — they are not. The gray is composed of discrete layers of 
color. And rather than being luminous, they are being illuminated by light reflecting back off the grounds 
the color is layered upon.

Yet these paintings look gray and luminous. It is only through reasoning we know that they are not. 
In setting appearance at odds with substance, De Crignis confronts the eye with the mind reminding us 
that the relationship between knowing and seeing is a live one.

There are not really any new concerns here; the concerns De Crignis raises are old ones. When I first 
recognized what they were it struck me with what courage such delicate and fragile work must be 
transported to the world.

Joan Waltemath