The lines in Bart Exposito's new paintings at Thomas Solomon Gallery do things the lines in his old paintings didn't: slip away from the shapes they demarcate to float in spaces that are more atmospheric than anything the artist has painted since he began exhibiting 15 years ago.
This transformation may have something to do with Exposito's recent move from Los Angeles to Santa Fe and his commute to Albuquerque, where he teaches. Like the landscape he drives through, most of his new works are horizontal. Previously, he preferred verticals and the odd square, a format more suited to portraiture and urban architecture.
Exposito's palette has also softened. His icy whites are now warm and milky. His grays, which were as solid as concrete, have gotten cottony — not quite warm and fuzzy, but more sensual, subtle, even gauzy. Pale shades of green, blue and gold predominate, their hairsplitting differences in tint sharpening the senses and generating a perceptual buzz that's quietly thrilling.
While Exposito's new surroundings must inspire him, the change in his art has at least as much to do with his maturity as an abstract painter. His refined lines make for patient paintings. These works move slow. Your eyes do the same, drifting, not ricocheting. And, while made to be looked at, Exposito's abstractions are OK with being overlooked.
That's what happens when people "read" paintings, looking for messages and easily consumed nuggets of info. Exposito's terrifically sophisticated paintings say "no thank you" to such shortsighted silliness, inviting viewers in for the long haul.
Thomas Solomon Gallery, 427 Bernard St., (323) 275-1687, through April 12. Closed Sunday-Tuesday. www.thomassolomongallery.com