PROVIDENCE — “Where the retinal meets the symbolic.” That’s painter Dan Walsh’s one-line summation of his work in a pamphlet that accompanies his first solo museum show in the United States, and it’s apt. His paintings, now up in “Dan Walsh: UnCommon Ground” at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, immediately caress the eye. Yet there’s far more going on here than simple visual pleasure, in the layering of paint, and in the patterns he builds on canvases.
Walsh has his roots in minimalist painting. He mostly paints grid-based patterns. But where minimalists such as Agnes Martin, whose delicately gestural work Walsh’s echoes, were paring down to the essence of structure, this artist is building up. He has referenced Tibetan mandalas when talking about his work. Used as meditation aids, mandalas can be seen as pictures of consciousness, and in their concentric squares and circles, they are packed with symbolism.