Art in Review
Published: December 10, 2004

Gregory Coates: 'Slang'
Joyce Wellman: 'Chance and Other Musings'
Kenkeleba Gallery
219 East Second Street, East Village
Through Dec. 31th

These two very different shows co-exist in a kind of civilized harmony, neither upstaging the other but each helped by the other's brio.

Word games like Scrabble inspire Gregory Coates's striking arrangements of flat painted squares that bear three-dimensional, abstract glyphs of twisted rubber tubing, suggesting the alphabet of a mysterious language. The pieces are much enlivened by contrasts of texture and color; a particularly suave one is "Chill," in which the shiny black tubing formations appear on smoothly finished tiles of deep royal blue alternating with matte black blanks. The asymmetrical arrangement is one you might encounter in a crossword puzzle.

Other works present tiles in hotter or paler color schemes, some with subtle underpainting. contrasts between rough and smooth surfaces, smaller or larger numbers of squares, and differing puzzle-oid arrangements. If they could speak it would undoubtedly be babble to us, but within their own realms they seem to converse harmoniously.

Joyce Wellman's paintings, drawings and monotypes are lighthearted but mystical compositions in which layered geometric shapes and fragments interact on grounds of translucent color. The shapes are covered with and surrounded by bits of words, numbers and gestural jottings of all kinds. Collaged elements appear, as in her largest work, "Number Gnome I and II," a diptych of acrylic and paper on canvas in which many slips bearing numbers - a tribute to the urban gambling game her mother used to play - are collaged onto the surface, along with small printed flyers the size of playing cards with images and titles like "El Negrito" stamped on them.

Another winner is "Global Blues a k a Big Blue's Love Circle," an acrylic in the shape of a circle; sitting on its blue ground spattered with white musings is an orange-y pentagram. Occupied by a faintly outlined five-pointed star and a scrawled spiral, the pentagram also sports white graffiti; a large, smudgy yellow polygon under it bears scattered grid markings and a glistening worm roaming the surface. Like Mr Coates's, Ms. Wellman's work speaks a language we can't fathom, but there's substance to it. GRACE GLUECK