One Man’s Logic

                … may be another’s eccentricity. The observational abstractions of Leopold Plotek, observed in a paradoxical attitude of sincere devotion and ironic dispassion, assume both or either view, simultaneously pictures of one (or another’s) convictions and doubts, apprehensions and misapprehensions.

                Plotek’s early canvases have waited thirty years and more for due recognition. He painted them hard on the heels of artistic and critical re-examinations of decoration, an aesthetic consideration until the mid-1970s considered fully extraneous to Modernism. As a protégé of Yves Gaucher, Plotek was steeped in, and considerably perplexed by, late Modernism, the reductive tunneling of which occluded the richness, variation and patterns of its inspirations. Luminescence had been a core value of Gaucher; however his paintings hummed in auras of controlled fluorescing optics. Plotek threw open his pictures to the light of day—revelatory. His paintings, whatever the ambiguity of their intentions, leave their motivations nakedly apparent.

                Throughout we see imagery of conditions and settings. Many of the first consist of little more than architectural motifs. A pillar, a lintel, a cornice an arcade, organized into a section that implies measurement, a potential rhythmic progression into space described as a chromatic void, the picture plane, as such, just ever so tilted into the mental construction of unseen perspectival distance. A structural arcade fragment denotes its Arcadian inhabitants. These figures appear soon enough. Stare at Leporello in Disguise. Plotek has assured us that he lurks within the set.

                Plotek easily associated his sets to the operatic realms of motivation and consequence, where life and destiny are cast by the fates and gods. Leporello is a character from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He is the servant to Don Giovanni, a lothario’s cautious, watchful shadow. Other paintings were inspired by Schönberg’s narrative song cycle Pierrot Lunaire, told by a character whose careless actions have been guided by the oblivious moon. Several more paintings are portraits of nymphs and muses, those fleeting, capricious, contagious emissaries of the gods into the human world.

                The ember-and-ash tones of Malatesta commemorate a little-known historical figure, Errico Malatesta (1853–1932). His unusually long life for an anarcho-communist of this era would cast a lasting influence on radical thought of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

                The later paintings in this exhibition show the inventive coalescence of Plotek’s own “odes” and “poems.” The Single Petaled Rose exemplifies his fully-matured abstract figuration. As its title suggests, it can be viewed a gigantic rolled blossom atop a stem, its outer membrane frayed and toughened by exposure and experience, protecting a still tender core. Yet it really is two figures, a once cynical, noticeably softened parent embracing the freshness of his child, one to another.


Ben Portis