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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 2-4 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."

 

AL LOVING

Al Loving, James, 1989. Mixed media on paper collage, 32 x 87 inches. Courtesy of the Estate of Al Loving and 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.

This was the period when the Detroit-born artist was at last synthesizing the varied influences he had absorbed over the years.

These influences began with the abstract-expressionist heritage of Hans Hofmann to which Loving was exposed by one of Hofmann’s students: Al Mullen, under whom Loving studied at the University of Michigan.

Next came input from some of the many artists he met and became familiar with after 1968, when he moved to New York, from Claes Oldenburg to Kenneth Noland, and finally from the indigenous arts of his African ancestors, in particular the circles and spirals that decorate so much of their work.

The current show has only eight pieces, but almost all of them work beautifully. Four are mixed media or collage mounted on square canvases.

Chief among this group is the beautiful piece for which the show is named, “Space, Time, Light #1” (1977), with its field of a pale ocean-blue topped off by twinkling flocks of small, gull-like white and grey shapes.

My favorites, however, are the four irregularly-shaped mixed-media pieces whose multi-colored congeries of circles and spirals are mounted flat against the walls.

Consider, for example, “James” (1989) whose red, white and black spirals on a pink yellow and especially lime-colored field are complemented by small appliques of checkerboards, one black-and-white, and one red-white-and-blue.

Like a giant slug, it oozes across the wall, but with what life! What verve! What started out looking like a garden pest has – by the magic of its glowing colors -- become a radiant tour de force.
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