Norman Bluhm, Coney Island Beauty, 1974, installed at 499 Park Avenue (courtesy Loretta Howard Gallery)
Charlie Finch visits Norman Bluhm's monumental painting Coney Island Beauty, recently installed at 499 Park Ave, New York.
Although Finch finds that the painting owes an "overwhelming debt to Pablo Picasso," he writes that "a doubling in the subject at hand restored, for a moment, to me, what is right about the painting, why I wanted to love it. The 'beauty' depicted, you see, could be that chubby wastrel on the shore, but also the billboard of some Botero-sized babe adorning the games of chance, like SkeeBall, on the Coney Island boardwalk itself. In this way, Norman Bluhm sprinkles that rarest of painterly qualities, humor, into his sparkling rolls of color and Picassoid line structure."
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.