Emil Robinson reviews the recent exhibition William McGee Works 1954-1977 at Reed Gallery, Cincinnati.
Robinson writes: "The show gave a wonderful introduction to a talented artist who had the good and bad fortune to be making work alongside some of the most important American painters in history. McGee was a painter of courageous ability and range... this show provided an art history lesson as we saw McGee working out the picture making problems that captivated the art world for some 40 years. For the art historian, painter or connoisseur, this show provided an opportunity to learn a new name through a powerful body of work."
Perle Fine, Cool Series, No. 35, Shape-Up, ca. 1961-1963 Oil on canvas, 70 x 80 inches (courtesy Spanierman Modern)
For an artist whose career success rivaled many well known New York School painters, Perle Fine (1905-1988) is surprisingly under-known. A student of Hans Hofmann, Fine was successful early, showing work at the Betty Parsons and Tanager Galleries in the 1940’s and 50’s. As early as 1942, her work began to be included in important group exhibitions at galleries such as Art of This Century and Stable Gallery. She was included in nine Whitney Annual and Bi-annual exhibitions between 1946 and 1972.
Fine’s artistic circle included the most accomplished New York School and European painters, from Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Ad Reinhardt to Piet Mondrian. Fine was a member of The Club, consistently well reviewed in the art press, and interviewed on the radio by Irving Sandler.
Early in her career, Fine practiced gestural abstraction, however, the current show at Spanierman Modern highlights selections from her Cool Series. This remarkable group of paintings moves confidently away from gesture (the hallmark of Abstract Expressionism) toward hard-edge geometric painting. Nearly every work in the show consists of a single open rectangular form on a monochromatic ground. Painted between 1961-63, they anticipate later developments in geometric abstract painting.
Kyle Chayka reports on a lecture by painter Jack Whitten on the occasion of his exhibition Jack Whitten: Erasures, on view at the SCAD Museum, Savannah, Georgia, through March 31, 2013.
Chayka writes: "New York’s frenetic milieu allowed Whitten to refine his practice, moving from derivative Abstract Expressionism to an automatic form of painting informed by manufacturing, speed, and minimalism. He adopted a physical materiality from African sculpture and focused on questioning the faith in gesture of the New York School. 'I stopped using the word ‘to paint,’ and said ‘to make,’ ' he explained, showing images of canvases he created by dragging saw-toothed planks across expanses of pooled paint. These paintings, which saw Whitten reduce his work down to a single gesture, are currently on view at the elegantly renovated SCAD Museum of Art. In contrast to some Abstract Expressionism, the work still feels fresh, largely due to its mechanical clarity. Whitten described that he thought of these paintings as having the qualities of a single line — a discrete piece of visual information."
Raphael Rubinstein blogs about the need for a reappraisal of Norman Bluhm's work and his impact on painting in the 20th century.
Rubinstein writes that Bluhm "knew that he would finally arrive at an approach that combined his early architectural training, his debt to Abstract Expressionism, and his passion for old masters. But if he knew where he was going, he also knew that there were no shortcuts, at least not for someone who respected the integrity and craft of painting, who never wanted to reject his own past, whose work was always about reconciliation, even when the only thing he was reconciling was the painting he was working on and the painting he’d just completed.... In the 1990s, Bluhm’s multi-panel, mural-scale paintings offered a compelling summation of his own career (he never turned away from gestural painting, but daringly assimilated it into geometric structures) and, even more importantly, an audacious project to reconcile some five centuries of painting history, stretching from the Lorenzetti brothers in 14th-century Siena and passing through Botticelli, Rubens, Tiepolo, Cézanne, Matisse and de Kooning."
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.