Geometric shapes like rectangles and circles have been the formal ingredients of some of the most sophisticated abstract art. In the hands of Henry Wolyniec they add up to intriguing, complex works of art that remain simple and direct at the same time. ICON Contemporary Art currently shows ten of his works dating from 2009 and 2010. They are all relief prints and collages on paper with a prevailing palette of somber colors, but they reveal great variations in treatment and emphasis.
ALIVE WITH ENERGY ‘HW10.31,’ relief print and paper collage, 22.5 x 16 inches, by Henry Wolyniec, 2010.
Wolyniec has been including printmaking in his collages since 2009 (before that he used inkjet printing), and this medium has become increasingly foregrounded. Using inked Masonite shapes and remnants from his creative process, including the remains of punched holes, he goes back and forth between printing and collaging, building up richly layered and complex compositions that play with material, substance, shadow, and trace. Wolyniec is clearly enamored by printmaking's possibilities and also unpredictability, which interrupts and complicates the decision making process.
Some works, like "HW10.39," at first appear muddy only to reveal subtle variations in color, surface, ranging from glossy, even iridescent, to matte, and texture, including raised collaged elements. To catch these complexities it helps to look at the work in raking light. In "HW10.26" Wolyniec pulls out all registers, as it were, resulting in shimmering depths and finely tuned correspondences of colors. The textured paper has picked up ink resulting in a fine mottled pattern. It is one of very few pieces that include stripes, though they read like extended dots. "HW10.26" is also unusual as the generally outward moving composition is checked by collaged blocks of green background paper jutting inward, leaving the relationship between background and composition open-ended.
"HW10.31" is just plain gorgeous. Layer after layer of glossy, jewel-like rectangles in colors ranging from light blue, white, various greens, a graphite-like black, and silver are printed on an orange collaged background without clear compositional borders. The reflective "wetness" of the ink creates a rich contrast to the matte surround, and partial printing allows for the interrelation of layers and beautiful color harmonies. "HW10.31" is all about incomplete edges and interwoven shapes with windows opening up onto other spaces, revealing what appears to be a grid of black underneath. It is alive with energy and endless points of interest — it feels utterly right and complete, yet not finished or settled.
One very successful exception to Wolyniec's approach of layering is "HW10.43" in which all elements are in one plane with carefully laid out interstices of blue paper providing an active breathing space. It is the simplest work in the show and lighter in color too with its white, yellow, and dark green shapes on blue paper.
Art does not have to mean something in order to be meaningful. Wolyniec's work does not represent or suggest anything, does not invite parallels to the observable world — only to itself. It is just there, asking for closer scrutiny to the point of getting lost in it. Shapes and colors in harmonic and rhythmic order, or balanced chaos, can be enough to affect us in genuinely rewarding ways. Wolyniec's work certainly does so. He is a highly accomplished and smart artist whose great compositional sensitivity is evident in every one of the works included in this show.