Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 5-7 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard-copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."

A GOOD AUTUMN FOR FINE ABSTRACTION

December 8, 2018

This has been a good autumn in New York for fine abstraction. As a result, I am able to present my second set of multi-image entries since Labor Day, again all celebrating shows of fine abstract art. All but one of this latest crop close before Christmas, and I have taken up too much time running around to look at them, so I don’t have the additional time needed to discuss them at length. Therefore I shall below illustrate and discuss as briefly as possible five shows that you might really want to look at for yourselves: those with art by Stuart Davis, Al Loving, Walter Darby Bannard, Morris Louis & Jules Olitski. In addition, I shall comment upon two lesser solo shows: of abstract work by Mary Weatherford & Elizabeth Neel, a show of representational painting by Walton Ford, and the mix of abstract & figurative work in a group show called “The Joy of Color.”

MARY WEATHERFORD, ELIZABETH NEEL & STUART DAVIS

December 8, 2018

Tags: Mary Weatherford, Elizabeth Neel, Stuart Davis

"Lines Thicken: Stuart Davis in Black and White" at Paul Kasmin. Installation shot.
On September 28, Roberta Smith in The New York Times ran a long article about seven abstract painters having exhibitions in Manhattan. Along with Larry Poons, Frank Bowling, and Ed Clark – all of whom I too reviewed on September 28 -- she celebrated two further shows in Chelsea “Mary Weatherford: I’ve Seen Seven Gray Whales Go By” at Gagosian (closed October 15) and “Elizabeth Neel: Tangled on a Serpent Chair” at Mary Boone (closed October 27). On October 5, I saw these two shows, as well as "Lines Thicken: Stuart Davis in Black and White" at Paul Kasmin (through December 22). (more…)

AL LOVING

December 8, 2018

Tags: Al Loving

Al Loving, James, 1989. Mixed media on paper collage, 32 x 87 inches. Courtesy Garth Greenan.
Pleasure of a more recent vintage awaited me on my next trip to Chelsea. The source is the latest show of Alvin D. Loving (1935-2005), better known as Al Loving, and occupying the handsome new space of Garth Greenan on ground level at 545 West 20th Street. There are only eight pieces of work in “Al Loving: Space, Time, Light” (through December 21), but they come from between 1977 and 1993, which is perhaps my favorite period in this gifted artist’s long career. (more…)

WALTON FORD, WALTER DARBY BANNARD

December 8, 2018

Tags: Walton Ford, Darby Bannard

Walter Darby Bannard, Peru, 1971. Alkyd resin on canvas, 51 x 55 inches. Courtesy Berry Campbell.
This time, my destination in Chelsea was “Walter Darby Bannard: Paintings from 1969-1975” at Berry Campbell (through December 21), but on the way I stopped in to see “Walton Ford: Barbary” at the handsome new “flagship” gallery of Paul Kasmin at 509 West 27th Street (through December 22). (more…)

MORRIS LOUIS

December 8, 2018

Tags: Morris Louis

Morris Louis (1912-1962), Twined Columns II, 1960. Magna on canvas, 102.52 x 140 inches (260.4 x 355.6 cm. Inv#3180. Courtesy of Yares Art.
Moving on up from Chelsea to midtown we come to Yares Art on Fifth Avenue, and a truly lovely exhibition of fifteen (count ‘em, 15) classic color-field paintings entitled “Morris Louis: Spectrum.” This show will be on through January 12, 2019, though if you plan to visit it between Christmas and New Year’s, you will need to call the gallery, as they had not yet decided which days during that period they would be open when I visited the show). (more…)

FINALLY, “THE JOY OF COLOR” & JULES OLITSKI

December 8, 2018

Tags: Jules Olitski, Nathlie Provosty

Installation shot, "Jules Olitski 60's Sprays" (left, Fourth Hoyo; right, Fourth Caliph). Courtesy Leslie Feely
For some reason, the top color-field painters of the 1960s (and even a little bit later) seem to be “in” this season in the Manhattan art world, or at least accepted as members in good standing of the ‘60s crowd (as opposed to being ostracized because Clement Greenberg admired them, and although few if indeed any of the younger artists most directly descended from them are deriving the slightest benefit from this new climate).

I say this not only because of the many solo shows I’ve so far reviewed this fall, nor even because of the exquisite mini-show of “Jules Olitski: 60’s Sprays” currently at Leslie Feely but most of all because of three group shows that include some of the artists I most admire and have been or will be mounted in unfamiliar big-league venues.

In this category I would first place “The Joy of Color” at Mnuchin on East 78th Street (closing December 8), second, “Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera,” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (opening December 17), and “Spilling Over: Painting Color in the 1960s,” at the Whitney Museum of American Art (due in March). (more…)

PERSONALITY V. TALENT (CHAPTER TWO)

November 28, 2018

Tags: Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol (1928–1987), Self-Portrait, 1964. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago; gift of Edlis/Neeson Collection, 2015.126 © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York.
My second example of the triumph of personality as opposed to the gift for making great paintings is holding forth with appropriate fanfare at the Whitney Museum of American Art. It is “Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again,” and it is billed as the first Warhol retrospective organized in the U.S. since the one at MoMA in 1989. It will be playing at the Whitney through March 31, 1919; then at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 18 through September 2, 1919, and the Art Institute of Chicago, October 20, 1919 through January 26, 2020. But you really should have seen the media preview in New York. That was a show in itself! (more…)

PERSONALITY V. TALENT (CHAPTER ONE)

November 15, 2018

Tags: Chagall, Lissitzky, Malevich

Marc Chagall, Double Portrait with Wine Glass, 1917–18, oil on canvas. Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, gift of the artist, 1949. Artwork © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris; image provided by CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, New York.
The older I get, the more convinced I am that to achieve success in the art world one needs not only visual talent, but the “right” personality. In fact, sometimes the “right” personality (variously defined) trumps the greater visual talents of others. In Manhattan this fall, we have two major museum exhibitions demonstrating the truth of my maxim. The first I shall deal with here and now. It’s the solidly conceived, abundantly documented and handsomely mounted “Chagall, Lissitzky, Malevich: The Russian Avant-Garde in Vitebsk, 1918-1922,” at The Jewish Museum (through January 6, 2019). (more…)

SOCIAL REALISM FROM CHICAGO: CHARLES WHITE

November 4, 2018

Tags: Charles White

Charles White (1918–1979), I Been Rebuked & I Been Scorned (Solid as a Rock), 1954. Wolff crayon and charcoal on Anjac illustration board, 43 1/2" x 27 1/4", signed; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY.
Seemingly from birth, Charles W. White (1918-1979) possessed extraordinary gifts as a draftsman, and a correspondingly great future as an artist. But as an African-American child growing up in lower-class Southside Chicago, he would also face problems in realizing his ambitions. That he managed so triumphantly to do so – not only as a draftsman but also as a muralist, painter and lithographer, is the subject of two shows in Manhattan: “Charles White: A Retrospective,” at the Museum of Modern Art (through January 13, 2019), and “Truth and Beauty: Charles White and His Circle,” at Michael Rosenfeld in Chelsea (through November 10). (more…)

"ANN WALSH: COLORS" AT SAM & ADELE GOLDEN

October 22, 2018

Tags: Ann Walsh

It is not my custom to review shows I haven’t seen, but I feel moved to say a few words about “Ann Walsh: Colors,” at the Sam & Adele Golden Gallery in New Berlin, New York (through March 15, 2019). That is because although I haven’t seen this particular show, I have seen a lot of Walsh’s work in her basement studio in Greenwich Village over the years. The result is that when I look at the photographs in the handsome catalogue, I feel I am among old friends. (more…)