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."
Jed Perl writes about the problems facing contemporary painters and finds "promising directions that painters might further explore" in Richard Diebenkorn’s work from the 1950s and 1960s, currently on view in the exhibtion Richard Diebenkorn, The Berkeley Years 1953-1966 at the M.H. De Young Museum, San Francisco through September 29, 2013.
Perl examines "the painter's predicament," writing: "Suffice it to say that the conundrum for painters in the past several decades has been how to maintain some dependable conception of what painting is all about while insisting on the freedom of action needed to keep that concept alive... There is always the necessity to hold the line even as one goes over the line, to maintain some sense of what painting is before all else in the face of an environment in which anything goes."
Both volumes feature selections from a vast trove of works on paper by Diebenkorn. Hager writes that "Like the works on paper they reproduce these books offer an intimate and spontaneous experience... Other than a few quotes from Diebenkorn and a biography, these volumes contain no commentary. We are free to form our own interpretations of the work, unencumbered by the flights of grandiose and sometimes tedious rhetoric that often accompany exhibit catalogs."
Poundstone writes: "Curated by Peter Selz and Debra Burchett-Lere, [the show] begins with the figurative watercolors Francis did as therapy from an army hospital bed in his 20s and ends with examples of the poured drip paintings he managed from a wheelchair, with one working arm, in his last illness at age 71... the PMCA show gives viewers opportunity to decide which phase of Francis they think best. I still favor the French Francis, and his 1953 watercolor Cote d’Azur (from the Broad collection) is worth a trip in itself."
After several decades of looking at works by Jackson Pollock, Alan Gouk finds Pollock's paintings to be "an extreme point of style. His art with all its multifarious associations is inseparable from the drip technique and his labile drawing style, volatile, looping, drooping, a cursiveness released from the definition of specific 'form,' and yet still creating a remarkably complex spatial experience, and no one has been able to take off from that."
Gouk offers Sir Joshua Reynolds' Selina, Lady Skipwith (1787) in the Frick as a more useful example of spontaneous gesture. This painting, he writes, "contains a beautiful demonstration of genuine spontaneity in action... [a] scribbled the indication of the rucked sleeve covering her left forearm emerging from this shade, a blurred irresolution which in fact sets the whole picture alight with movement... something made him stop at this point, a vision of the whole which required this fluttering destabilizing passage, and without which the picture would have been more static and conventional." causes Gouk to conclude that "all this ironising self-flagellation about 'spontaneous' 'gestural' painting is misplaced. It all depends what these gestures contribute, what they are for, how they function in the overall conception. Ultimately, either a pictorial gesture is spontaneous or it isn’t – and only an intuitive grasp of formal intent, and an empathetic absorption of the whole image can decide."
Carrier writes: "That Pollock and Dubuffet can happily cohabit as near equals is, of course no surprise. What here is up for grabs is Ossorio’s artistic relationship with these two modernist masters. He tends to place figurative elements or shapes not unlike Dubuffet’s in a Pollockesque all over field... You have the sense, rather, that driven by his awareness of the greatness of his friends’ art, Ossorio was experimenting restlessly without ever achieving real resolution. So, for example, Red Family (1951) uses a figure like some Dubuffets; and Head (1951) employs a drawn field akin to some of Pollock’s weaker pictures. But where Pollock mastered a language of personal abstraction, evidenced in his great little painting on paper Number 22A, 1948; and Dubuffet immersed figures in flatted fields, Ossorio, a gifted eclectic always remains uncomfortably suspended between abstraction and the figure."
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.