(An Appropriate Distance)


By Piri Halasz


Report from the Front

Art criticism, art comment, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 5-7 times a year. For new shows, see "events;" for hard-copy rates and ways to support the online edition, see "works."


February 25, 2015

"The New York School, 1969." Left to right: Motherwell, Smith, Frankenthaler. Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery.
The big mid-winter show at Paul Kasmin is entitled, “The New York School, 1969: Henry Geldzahler at the Metropolitan Museum of Art” (through March 14).

As curated by Stewart Waltzer, it aims to recreate the excitement aroused in the fall of 1969 by “New York Painting and Sculpture 1940 – 1970.” (more…)


February 17, 2015

Tags: Francine Tint

Francine Tint. Conjurer, 2011. Acrylic on canvas, 48" x 107". Courtesy Walter Wickiser Gallery.
At Walter Wickiser in Chelsea we have “Francine Tint: Echo and Shadow” (through February 25). Technically, this is only half of a two-person show, but Tint’s 14 paintings -- ranging in size from small to large, and all pure abstractions-- occupy the large central space in this gallery and the larger front one of its two side spaces. (more…)


February 15, 2015

For the past week, I have been attending the annual conference of the College Art Association (to which I have belonged since my first year in graduate school). It was an exciting experience, but also an upsetting one -- not least because for the first time in all those years, I spoke from the audience to dispute a couple of statements by one of the speakers up on the dais. (more…)


February 10, 2015

........Sideshow Nation III ..........

Imagine my surprise when I picked up the Weekend Arts II section of the NY Times for January 23 and saw on its front page the huge photograph of a lofty gallery with many, many mostly small- to medium-sized pictures decorating its walls from floor to ceiling (the top ones “skied," in the nomenclature of the Royal Academy of London). At last, I thought, the Times has decided (more…)


January 21, 2015

Tags: Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde

V. S. Gaitonde, Untitled, 1977. Oil on canvas, 70 x 40 inches (177.8 x 101.6 cm). Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai. © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. Photo: Anil Rane.
Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, runs the old recapitulation theory – meaning that the history of the individual recapitulates the history of the genus or species. While no longer favored in discussions of biology, it continues to find applications in other fields ranging from anthropology to music criticism.

It’s remarkably applicable to the life story of Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde (1924-2001), the Indian abstractionist whose serenely lovely mini-retrospective (of 45 paintings and works on paper) is currently on view in one level of the carefully delineated space of the annex at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (through February 14).

Gaitonde’s modestly-scaled abstractions are quite unlike any of the works that I normally recommend, not least because the paint in the best of them is spread almost as thinly as air. But I like to think that my readers are not so narrow-minded that they automatically tune out when confronted by art that doesn't resemble what they already know. (more…)


January 14, 2015

Tags: Cézanne

Paul Cézanne (French, Aix-en-Provence 1839–1906 Aix-en-Provence). Madame Cézanne (Hortense Fiquet, 1850–1922) in the Conservatory, 1891. Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 28 3/4 in. (92.1 x 73 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960.
At first I wasn’t eager to see “Madame Cézanne” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (through March 15). I revere the Master of Aix-en-Provence as nearly a deity, but it’s his landscapes (especially the latest ones) that really set my nerve ends quivering.

Next on my list of most-favorite Cézannes are the still lifes (especially the simplest ones). Last come the figure studies, especially the portraits--which, when you see them individually, all appear very similar.

Add to that the fact that this show consists of 24 oils, 17 pages of drawings and three watercolors, all portraits of the same person—and I began to fear for my faith. (more…)


January 7, 2015

Tags: Renzo Piano, Goya

Francisco Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828). Witches' Sabbath, 1797-1798. Oil on canvas, 43.5 x 30.5 cm (17 x 12 in.). Lent by Fundación Lázaro, Galdiano, Madrid.
In December, I visited Boston for two good reasons: to see the Goya exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, and to see what Renzo Piano hath wrought, in his redesign of three Harvard museums. I’m sorry that I’m not reporting on my visit earlier, because the Goya show will only be (more…)


December 30, 2014

Tags: Matisse

Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954). Two Dancers (Deux danseurs), 1937-38. Stage curtain design for the ballet Rouge et Noir. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, notebook papers, pencil, and thumbtacks. 31 9/16 x 25 3/8” (80.2 x 64.5 cm). Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Dation, 1991. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Undoubtedly the biggest crowd-pleaser of the autumn is “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs” at The Museum of Modern Art (extended through February 10, 2015).

Billed as “the most extensive presentation of Matisse’s cut-outs ever mounted,” this mammoth exhibition offers about 100 unique examples of this distinctive form of expression that occupied the major part (more…)


December 22, 2014

Tags: Braque, Gris, Léger, Picasso

Georges Braque, Mandolin and Fruit Dish. Paris, early 1909. Oil on canvas, 15 1/8 × 18 1/8 in. / 38.4 × 46 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Not even The Metropolitan Museum of Art has within my memory received a gift as generous as the promised gift that is presently displayed there as “Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection” (through February 16, 2015). And it’s not just the size of the gift that makes it so generous, although it's a whale of a lot of art. (more…)


December 12, 2014

Tags: Pollock

Jackson Pollock Painting "Autumn Rhythm." Photo by Hans Namuth, (c) Hans Namuth Ltd.
Maybe you have a friend with a five-foot shelf of every book about Jackson Pollock ever written. Or maybe you have a friend who doesn’t know much about Pollock but seems to be interested and would like to know more.

Or maybe you have a friend who falls somewhere between these two extremes, (more…)

Selected Works

A journalist tells how she developed a radical theory of abstract painting through varied experience.
The go-go mini-guide telling where ‘60s swingers hung out, and how they went about swinging.

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