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."

AN AFTERNOON IN CHELSEA

August 12, 2018

Tags: Etel Adnan, Ricardo Mazal, Hiroshi Senju, Darby Bannard, Larry Zox, Larry Poons, James Walsh, Joyce Weinsteinm Mike Solomon, Syd Solomon, Albert Stadler, Eric Dever, Judith Godwin

Judith Godwin, Betrayal, 1976. Oil on canvas, 50 x 48 inches. Courtesy Berry Campbell.
On a recent trip to Chelsea, I found one big show & two lesser shows that I’d recommend, in whole or at least in part. The lesser shows with some work I liked were “Etel Adnan, Ione Saldanha & Carolee Schneemann: Of the Self and of the Other,” at Galerie Lelong & Co, (closed August 3), and the “Summer Group Show” at Sundaram Tagore (through September 1). The big show where I liked practically everything I saw was "Summer Selections," at Berry Campbell (through August 17).

ETEL ADNAN, RICARDO MAZAL, & HIROSHI SENJU

Galerie Lelong I happened into as a result of having run into Jill Nathanson on the street. If I recall correctly, she said she’d heard that Etel Adnan was worth seeing.

And I liked Adnan’s work, too, though very modest it was yet somehow tuneful—small nice abstract geometries in pale colors, lots of pale pinks and mustards and baby blues.

Born in 1925 in Lebanon, the artist it seems has been everywhere and done everything, but is now circling back to a concern with nature – if not landscape in the usual sense of the word. She is based in Paris.

Nathanson had also advised me that she was going on to a group show at The Painting Center. I believe she said she had a friend with work in the group show there. I looked in on that show, too.

It didn’t grab me, but emerging on the ground floor from the elevator at 547 West 27th Street, the building where The Painting Center is located, I saw a glassed- in wall case in the lobby with two lovely small gray-on-gray abstracts by Ricardo Mazal in it.

These were part of the summer group show at Sundaram Tagore, which has two entry doors, one on the street & one in the lobby of 547

Mazal, it turns out, is a contemporary Mexican painter (born 1950) who divides his time between Mexico City and Santa Fe, New Mexico. I didn’t relate to the rest of his work on view, but I was still very glad to have ventured into the gallery, for here I saw several monumentally large paintings of smaller trees (mostly evergreens) clinging to huge cliffs and done in silvery shades of foggy gray and white.

They were like a breath of cool air from the country, reminding me vividly of my summers in camp in the Adirondacks when I was a child.

According to the gallery’s press release, they had been created by Hiroshi Senju, a native of Tokyo (b. 1958) who now lives and works in New York.

He is said to be known as one of the few contemporary artists practicing the thousand-year-old nihonga style of Japanese painting, using pigments made from minerals, ground stone, shell and corals suspended in animal-hide glue.

But the precision of his mountain-side images tells me that he works from photographs, too.

“SUMMER SELECTIONS” AT BERRY CAMPBELL

The 30 paintings on the checklist for this show correspond, as nearly as I recall, to the 30 paintings I saw when I visited this show, and constitute a colorful and almost entirely worthwhile assembly.

Most of them are colorful, and, although few conform to the narrower definition of “color-field painting”, many are the handiwork of artists from whom I have (somewhat arrogantly perhaps) come to expect excellence (nor was I disappointed on this occasion)

Here I would cite the glory and grandeur of the paintings by Darby Bannard (with a large & stately minimalist green moon from 1961-62); Larry Zox (with surprisingly fluid streams of acrylic covering a1987 canvas in an upward direction); and Larry Poons (with a smaller but still perfect vertical “rain” painting from 1980);

Also James Walsh (with “Angel Gate,” a small and flatter 2014 acrylic built around vertical off-whites – and when are we going to get a whole show by this talented man?); and Joyce Weinstein (with a surprisingly gutsy “Country Fields with a Blue” done in pink, black and brown, from 2018, hung over the reception desk).

Also predictably admirable were the works I saw by Stanley Boxer; Edward Avedisian; William Perehudoff; Dan Christensen; Jill Nathanson; & Frank Wimberley (who is new to this gallery but whose work I have seen and admired in other venues).

But there were also a number of paintings by painters whose work I had only rarely (if at all) been impressed by before. I can’t promise that I would respond with equal fervor to a whole show of work by any of them, but individually they looked just fine.

In this group I would include “Native Shore #6” (2018), by Mike Solomon (b. 1956), a curiously moving acrylic on polyester films on panel of horizontal strips of pale blues, greens and pinks on a cream-colored field; and “Summer Spell” (1985), by Syd Solomon (1917 – 2004, and the father of Mike), a whimsically dancing vertical playground of small forms, all abstract but strangely reminiscent of Miró;

Also the “Untitled (112),” (c. 1978), by Albert Stadler (1923-2000), a pale but mellow vertical with a field of melting brown, and dabs and dancers in pinks, rose red and white; “August 4th” (2016), by Eric Dever (b.1962), with a predominantly purple cloud billowing over a chartreuse field;

And finally, “Betrayal” (1976), by Judith Godwin (b. 1930), a muscular convocation of threatening blacks that with bold strokes dominates a meeker field of pinkish browns & blues.