Leopold Plotek’s titles invoke antiquity, scripture, mythology, Jewish mysticism, and Artie Shaw-and eclectic list that parallels the wide-ranging pictorial allusions of his mysterious, audacious paintings. Plotek aspires to the drama, seriousness, and sensuousness of the Venetian Renaissance and the High Baroque, ambitions that these days are usually synonymous with postmodernist irony and appropriation. The Montreal based Plotek, however, neither quotes verbatim nor updates historical compositions. Instead, he strives to invent in his own abstract language the qualities of past art that he admires-he casts the Grand Manner into late-20th-century terms and he filters the highest of high art through high modernism, all with street smart overtones.

Murky, hot color, lush paint handling, and dry, broken surfaces trigger associations with Venetian prototypes without reproducing them. Space is unstable; "foreground" and "background" change places. Figures, gestures, even narratives are implied but not depicted-sometimes, a human presence survives as just a memory.

In The Trip Here and Back, Plotek wrenches a vertiginous dream image of Italy out of a loose structure of dully glowing planes. Evocative shapes briefly pull free and then subside. A tall, slender tower turns a dark, luminous expanse into sky, arcades evoke the sheltered streets of Bologna, and something vaguely figure like lurks in a corner, yet the painting remains essentially abstract. Plotek’s approach is a high-risk proposition, but when he succeeds-as he often does-this artist achieves resonant, disquieting images that both demand and reward sustained attention.