Review: Evert Witte at Cole Pratt Gallery_lowres


The thing about the Dutch is that they are always, somehow, indelibly Dutch — especially their visual artists. I mean that as a compliment. Although if the precise realism of Johannes Vermeer, the post-impressionist brio of Vincent Van Gogh and the bold yet orderly abstraction of Piet Mondrian seem very different, look again. The common thread is their pristine lyricism, a lucidity tinged with a touch of mysticism despite being rooted in that most practical of nationalities. In 1993, Dutch artist Evert Witte took a road trip across the U.S. that led him to New Orleans. He has been here, more or less, ever since, painting in his unique manner, as if early Mondrian took a side trip through latter 20th-century America before ending up in a studio off Carrollton Avenue just in time for the post-postmodern new age of abstraction. The look is still preternaturally Dutch, but with coolly elusive, jazz fusion overtones.

Casta Diva (pictured) is emblematic — a loose fandango of pale aubergine and zinfandel loop-de-loops cavorting in an ethereal psychic safe space that suggests how Mondrian might have painted had he lived long enough to hear David Bowie sing about "Quaaludes and red wine." Despite looking so wavy-gravy, everything is situated in its proper place with deft Dutch perspicacity. Callas in Blue is almost like a painterly interpretation of George Gershwin's jazz-inspired composition "Rhapsody in Blue," but its indigo-infused polka dots and rectangular slashes on a shimmering sea of Curacao suggest a bluesy precursor to Mondrian's own jazzy Broadway Boogie Woogie. Don't Ask Willie is more like a rhapsody in beige and smudged umber, cappuccino and milk froth, all arranged in angular slashes that resonate like Charles Mingus playing a slow dirge on his string bass. Miles extends the beat in an angular composition that mingles the staggered angularity of lower Manhattan on a gray autumn day with hints of Japanese Zen drawing's lyrical transcendence in a visual allegory of Witte's journey from his old Holland home.