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Jake Berthot

It's a funny cliche about the rigid boundaries of pictorial con­tent, a reversal of the supposed progression of the artist, who's expected to get over sunsets and do something serious, like Cub­ism. Maybe Jake Berthot wasn't aware of the wisdom, or didn't care. His emotive, nearly monochromatic paintings of the 1970s both resisted Minimalism's incursions and softened them, remaining loyal to the modernisô€€¬ ideas of gesture and feeling, until he abandoned them for the land­scapes of the Catskill Mountains. Except Berthot's landscapes weren't really of the Catskills, or anywhere else. Where his early paintings, accounting for half of the 20 on view here, employed notched edges or central columns to shift their focus, inviting the eye to linger over a naturalistic palette of oxidized greens and rusted zinc, his late work (the other half, from 1996-2014) redou­bled that strategy through multi­ple vanishing points, violating the concrete parameters of real space. These pictures wear na-. ture like a feint - loosely ren­dered fields whose loamy browns and ochers contain only the hint of a spectral birch or sunlight leaking over a ridge, their organ­izing grids left faintly visible, like a ghost - a pastoral of the mind. Berthot was a restive artist, and it's tempting to view the paintings he made toward the end of his life as vibrating between serenity and dread. But that would do his vision a disservice. He was grappling with the void from the start.