The artist deploys shaped canvases suggestive of shields, with doubled biomorphic forms in a bilaterally symmetrical format, as in archetypal work like Brother (1972) and Arena (1977). Gorchov’s works descend from experiments in shaped canvases from the 1960s pioneered by artists such as Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Tuttle, David Novros, and Blinky Palermo. The earliest work in this exhibition, Set (1971) with its stack of shaped “crown” canvases, clearly demonstrates Gorchov’s place among these innovators.
At the same time, Gorchov remained close to leading figures within the established New York School, and was a friend of Mark Rothko; in fact, the first of his shaped canvases was made in what had been Rothko’s studio, although he distances himself from the notion that he was ever a later avatar of the New York School: “For one thing, I never wanted to be a second or third generation artist of any kind. Also, I think painting, per se, is an ideal way to criticize the work you already admire because that way you can take the best things in it and try to make your work to be the next consequential step.”1
Rob Storr writes in “Old Master Ron”: “Tamper the grid and ease the boundaries of shapes loosely teethed to it and—almost self-protectively—the senses awaken, the imagination comes alive.”2 The artist’s use of the shield as a governing form in his work is exemplary as a sensory and imaginative trope, one that is both literal (the shape) and figurative (the association). As Storr writes, “the pleasure that ensues is at once wholly fulfilling in the moment but poignantly elusive in retrospect—but then true pleasure always is.”3