John Goodrich and Stephen Ellis remember painter Charles Cajori, who passed away December 1, 2013.
Goodrich writes that Cajori "personified a kind of painter that has become increasingly rare, one who was not only highly accomplished and acclaimed as an artist, but extraordinarily generous and accessible as well. His enthusiasm for painting was contagious, and seemingly limitless; he valued his time in the studio, and discussions about art, far more than the machinations of the art scene. Painting was the immediate and consuming passion of his life, one he hoped to share. At this he succeeded, as he leaves behind a remarkable body of work and numerous peers and students inspired by his way of seeing."
Halasz writes that, in viewing the show "it becomes clear that the collages served an important purpose for the artist They enabled him to progress from his youthful admiration for cubist painting on to the freer and bolder original paintings that he was to create as one of the founding fathers of abstract expressionism. ... if one looks at oils like 'The Homely Protestant' (1948) or even the ur-version of 'Elegy to the Spanish Republic' (also 1948), one sees that he has learned to combine straight lines with curves and rounded forms, not really surrealist but liberated from the strictures of cubism. This was what the use of collage taught him, to loosen up and fly."
David Anfam discusses Abstract Expressionism with Sam Cornish on the occasion of the exhibition Re-View: Onnasch Collection at Hauser & Wirth, London, on view through December 14, 2013.
Anfam comments "Instead of thinking of Ab Ex... as having a fixed 'center,' it makes more sense to regard this impossibly manifold phenomenon as a shifting set of positions around a core that will always remain elusive. The closest one can come to defining such a crux is that the artists sought to figure states of consciousness. This was what I wrote in 1990 and I still feel the same way today, even if you want to translate the idea into academe-speak and call it, for example, 'subjectivity.' Rothko put it bluntly—some might even say naively—when he spoke about expressing 'basic human emotions… tragedy, ecstasy, doom.' For Pollock, consciousness was figured in terms of what amounts to an abstract (more or less) script, a literal and metaphorical outpouring of the self and its energies in terms of skeins of paint, and so forth. Even a maverick such as Ad Reinhardt upholds this notion, albeit from an oppositional stance, by striving to purge his work of any traces of the hand or, as it were, the heart. What I cannot tolerate is the old, clichéd presentation of Ab Ex as consisting of color-field painters on the one hand, with gesturalists or action painters on the other. It’s shallow, formalist, featured in at least one influential study of the 'movement' and should be put to rest for good." The post also includes an interesting take on Clyfford Still's drawings.
Keane writes that the show "focuses on how Vicente translates modernist designs for painting into the diction of collage. Braque and Matisse loom as his chief influences. Like those two artists, he often resorts to jigsaw patterns and semi-schematic presentations to create depths from surfaces... After joining the ranks of action painters and color field painters, he discovered how paper itself could achieve those same effects and reinvigorate both collage and abstract painting. This is his most important legacy, and yet his easily recognizable participation in those art movements can eclipse his individuality. Still, the question I kept asking myself during and after the visit was: How can a display of mixed media works that often look improvised and unassuming linger in the mind so monumentally, as if they were giant sculptures or primitive totems?"
Paul Corio reviews an exhibition of late paintings by Willem de Kooning at Gagosian Gallery, New York, on view through December 21, 2013.
Corio asserts: "De Kooning’s late work seems to me to be a particularly fertile example for the contemporary abstract painter, not stylistically per se, but in terms of permissiveness. It is largely free of the more restrictive aspects of Greenbergian Modernism but evinces a keen understanding of them nonetheless – it chooses not to be that. It instead devours much that has come before and during its creation: Veronese, Rubens, Picasso, Stuart Davis, Matisse, Mondrian, Ab Ex, Pop, sign-painting, advertising, commercial illustration. And perhaps most importantly, it grapples head-on with the knotty issue of beauty, abstraction’s greatest bugbear since its inception, and is in no way diminished by its incorporation."
Robin Cembalest reviews an exhibition of works by Ad Reinhardt at David Zwirner Gallery, New York, on view through December 18, 2013.
Cembalest writes that the "show explores links between Ad Reinhardt's identity as abstract painter and as cartoonist, satirist, crusader, explicator, and slide-show maker... At a time when various New York abstractionists were starting to make money, some people saw the cartoons as a product of sour grapes. But that wasn’t the case, [curator Robert] Storr stresses. Rather, Reinhardt’s cartoons are warning salvos aimed at posers who might sully the purity of art. And that is what links them to the paintings: both are the product of the artist’s unapologetic, unswerving esthetic and ethical code."
Yau writes: "Johnson doesn’t demean or pity his subjects and he doesn’t allow us to become sentimental about them. Additionally, he doesn’t let us become voyeurs or let us off the hook, which is why I think these works haven’t become widely known or popular. Instead, he infuses looking with a moral dimension, inviting us to be conscious of what we chose to ignore in everyday life. The Dark Pantings give us much to think about. Embedded within the paint and ink, his men attain a level of dignity and reserve. Their muteness is what I find most disquieting."
Steven Alexander blogs about the recent exhibition John Grillo: Works from the 1940s, 50s and 60s at David Findlay Jr Gallery, New York.
Alexander writes: "Grillo's inventiveness is manifested in surprising poetic explorations that are freewheeling, fresh, and utterly without pretense. His paintings carve out and hold their own humble, playful, vital place in the rich history of postwar abstraction."
David Evison reviews the recent exhibition Hans Hofmann: Magnum Opus at the Museum Pfalzgalerie. Kaiserlautern. A video (in English and German featuring Karen Wilkin and William Agee) about the show is available here.
Evison writes: "From the evidence of this exhibition, Hofmann does not make a sudden breakthrough but gets to the top gradually. The group of paintings made at the war’s end, the example being Figures in Ferment, 1945 from the Reinhold Würth collection, are superb. But MOMA’s Flowering Desert, 1953 is special. It has every colour of the rainbow, all manners of paint application, light and dark contrast, even black and white; a recipe for disaster. But he is disciplined and has developed theories for himself and as pedagogy. From this strong conceptual base he has the scaffolding (Struktur) and can let go, and he lets rip when confronted with the canvas and with his materials. It is a little masterpiece as perfect as Gericault’s small Cavalry Skirmish in the Wallace collection."
Seed writes: "The works Diebenkorn made during his years in Berkeley reflect his artistic dialogues with Edward Hopper, Northern Expressionism, the work of Bay Area colleagues and the French lineage represented by Cezanne, Matisse and Bonnard. Richard Diebenkorn, a patient and discerning man, was a syncretist of genius."
Seed continues: "Responding to the challenge of the figure eventually brought out some of Diebenkorn's most deft and elegant brushwork. Making the figures 'work' in their painted surroundings was always a positive problem and many of his solutions are brilliant and original. Sometimes Diebenkorn's formalist instincts overwhelmed his feelings about the figure and the resulting paintings could be a bit chilly: during his lifetime Diebenkorn was often annoyed by what critics had to say about a perceived emotional distance between the artist and his human subjects. In truth, even some of his most beautiful figures emanate at least a hint of isolation."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.