September 1986

ARTFORUM REVIEW

by Carlo McCormick

ALEX GREY

Stux Gallery, New York

Alex Grey’s paintings are an unusual amalgam of mystical obsession and scientific precision. His is an art of metaphysics, and no matter how far removed his concept of reality may be from the fringes of normal human experience, it is based on, and precisely rendered as, the results of an intensive personal investigation into the nature of man.

Visually, Grey’s quasi-textbook illustrations seem disturbingly inappropriate for anything that would be considered expressive or inspirational in painting. Despite the largely intuitive nature of his work, the nearly academic style of his presentation is problematic and quirky in that it tries unrelentingly to explain, literally peeling away the skin to expose the nuts and bolts of the human machine. While the group of paintings exhibited here were actually about love and positive energies, the lack of sentimentality in Grey’s execution, and his graphic, scientific dissection of what is normally rendered as sensuous flesh, tend to make them appear more coldly distanced. Yet these are in fact extremely passionate works, and it is only Grey’s inquisitiveness, his desire to understand the cosmic metastructure of humanity, that drives him to such a rigorously detailed account of the typically unseen.

Grey’s vision is both microscopic and telescopic. While his human figures are taken from anatomical charts, his universe from astronomy, and his flowing energy fields from physics, his work nevertheless refutes the artificial boundaries drawn by science. For Grey, there is a larger, multidimensional scheme of things, a systemic web of existence that is structurally dependent upon the existential as well as the biological, the spiritual as well as the mathematically infinitesimal. Grey’s style of painting is so literal because his message is so abstract. His dream, concretized in his work, is of an ontological revelation. He is an artist, not a physicist, and his work, despite its expository look, is about vision, not theory.