Art in Review
Published: November 25, 2005

Martin Kline
Jason McCoy Inc.
41 East 57th Street, Manhattan
Through Dec. 3

The ingenious use of encaustic - dry pigments mixed with molten wax - gives Martin Kline not only his painterly medium but his subject matter as well, in that the thick built-up surfaces of his panels, amazing in their accreted detail, have a materiality that is quite as sensuous as their imagery. By repeated brushing, he builds his motifs layer by layer, as in "Mirage" (1999), whose rough, ridged, overall pattern of dirty white strokes on brown closely resembles a tree lichen, and the mural-size "Joy!" (2002), an extremely lively surface of ebullient, deeply layered color bars stroked side by side to make an informal, almost three-dimensional grid. In a similar mode is "Autumn Boogie Woogie" (1997), a large grid of tiny squares that salutes Mondrian but in which each paint-packed square thrusts out as a separate image.

In "Oath" (2001), a small block of raw wood is topped by a thick, appetizing white-underlaid-by-yellow icing that drips down on the wood like cake icing - or it could be a crust of melting snow on a roof. More intricate is "Leda" (2001), a square format in which repeated sweeps of the brush from the center out have created a thick, flowerlike form whose dense central mass thins as the brush strokes die out at the square's perimeter. Mr. Kline also occasionally takes his materiality into metal, as in "Wounded Healer," a stainless-steel sculpture depicting a short piece of crotched tree limb from which two branches have been sawed. From the cuts ooze congealed clots of steel sap.

In giving his minimal visions so much painterly flesh, Mr. Kline is by no means adrift from currents in modern and contemporary art, but he comes across as a hedonist, too, guilty of manipulating matter for the pure pleasure of it. GRACE GLUECK