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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. New shows: "events;" how to support the online edition: "works."



Kikuo Saito, Swing, 2013.Acrylic On Canvas, 54h x 38w in, Photo Courtesy Leslie Feely

Greetings, friends!  ,I have sad and happy news for you.   The sad news is that I will be closing down this website sometime in the next few weeks, as an art critic on a walker is an oxymoron.  My legs -- at the excrutiating age of 88 -- will no longer allow me to do what I consider an art critic's prime responsibillty: of eyeballing art in galleries and museums, and passing along my takes on it.


Also, I am moving -- most likely from New York to New Jersey --- and this will make it even more difficult for me to get to the art.  Possibly sometime I may find other ways to express myself in print but at this moment I am tied up in the logistics of my move. 


Just let me say that it has been a wonderful 26 years -- from issue #1, in 1996 to Issue #136, in 2022 and I have more times than I can count been grateful for the wonderful work that my readers and so many others have given me the opportunity of viewing and responding to. Truly, the art I have seen will last far longer than my attempts to celebrate it.  Art at its best is truly eternal.


As testimony to which, the beat goes on, even in our own little Greenbergian corner of the Art World.  As testimony to this I offer you news of a huge celebration of that corner begining on May 13, 2023, at KINOSAITO, the gallery/residency/educational facillty that Kikuo Saito and his wife Mikiko Ino purchased as a studio for Kikuo's studio before he died in 2016 at the age of 84.


The building is an old brick catholic school, located in the shade of the Indian Point nuclear plant.


The address is 115 7th Street, PO Box 653, Verplanck NY 10596.


The show opening on May 13 (and running through December 17) is "KIKUO SAITO AND FRIENDS: NEW YORK CITY DOWNTOWN AND BEYOND, 1970S AND 1980S."  Participating artists listed in the announcement are: Willard Boepple, Anthony Caro, Dan Christensen, Paula DeLuccia, Friedel Dzubas, Helen Frankenthaler, John Griefen, Darryl Hughto, Ronnie Landfield, John McLean, Kenneth Noland, Larry Poons, Peter Reginato, Susan Roth, Francine Tint, Ann Walsh, James Walsh, Michael L. Williams, Robert Wilson, Larry Zox.   This show, which has been curated by Karen Wilkin, is not absolutely everybody creating admirable art in New York "and beyond" in the 70s and 80s but it's a pretty staggering array of talent..


The best time to get there (at least for the first visit) will be at the opening reception, which will be on May 13 from 4 to 7 pm.   In addition to the usual offerings at openings there will be music, performances and knows God what else.


 PS.....And, for those unable to get up the Hudson, Leslie Feely is displaying not only the Saito illustrated above but also work by Friedel Dzubas, Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski, Robert Motherwell & Cleve Gray in "Chromatic Dialogues" at Tower 49, 12 East 49th Street, Manhattan....through March 2004.




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Greetings, friends!  Have newly returned from another month in rehab, occasioned by a fall, and not entirely satisfied with the way my legs have turned to jelly by spending so much time lying in bed.  Am working hard getting both my balance and my endurance back, as well as finding means of transport other than ruinously-priced taxicabs. Sorry I didn't get to "Chroma" at Upsilon, as I understand it featured work by Susan Roth, and I haven't seen her work in so many moons that I no longer have any idea what it looks like.   Am also sorry that I will probably miss the Jules Olitski centennial show at Yares, though  I understand it's quite a show and  its run has been extended to February 11.  But am hoping to see the next exhibition at Yares (Larry Poons)? And I understand that in March paintiings from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation will be on view at Gagosian.  As that artist kept back some of her finest works instead of selling them, that should be a particular.y worthy show.

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The nearest thing to royalty that British art offers is an R.A. – the title of "Royal Academician."  Mali Morris had that conferred on her in 2010, when she was 55.  Of course, if she'd been making trendier art, like the YBA's, she might have made the grade in her twenties or thirties, but as her current Manhattan show at Hales demonstrates, the Academy still goes for elegant, top grade classical abstraction (God bless them).  The show's called "Three Ghosts" and it will be up until December 17.


The artist was born in Caernarfon, North Wales, which is what the English call "a royal town, community and port" and in photographs is dominated by a single lovely castle.  She took her B.A. in Fine Art in 1968 at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, in a city which historically was "Noorth Coonthry" headquarters for coal export and is now better known as a university town (ironically enough, it is aiming in the 21st century to become Britain's first "carbon neutral" footprint.)


At Newcastle, Morris took the basic course with Richard Hamilton, well known in the '60s as the Father of English Pop.  However, when she moved south to study for an M.F.A., it was at the University of Reading and there the program was run by a veteran abstractionist, Terry Frost.

Finally, in the 70s, she migrated to London and became exposed to the full range of contemporary painting – including the "post-painterly" abstractions of Helen Frankenthaler and Kenneth Noland.


In time, her admiration for these masters led her to a wider acquaintance with the next generation of "post-painterly" artists: Jill Nathanson, in a Facebook post prompted by the Hales show, recalled meeting her at the Triangle Artists' Workshop (this would have been in the 80s); ;Randy Bloom (around the turn of the century) curated a show of Morris's work for "a gathering of the tribes," the gallery of Steve Cannon; and on the other side of the briny, I seem to recall David Evison saying more than once that he'd gone to an art show with Morris.


All this, though as the gallery's press release reminds us, Morris has also compiled  a formidable resume of solo and group exhibitions both in the UK and abroad, and is looked upon as a model for yet younger artists in the U.S. as well as the U..K.


In London, according to Morris's entry at the R.A. website, her studio is located in what Americans might call an artists' cooperative.  It is now in Deptford, a neighborhood on the south side of the Thames famous for its docks (and for the fact that the playwright Christopher Marlowe  was killed here in a tavern brawl).


Morris also lives in the area, and walks to her studio every morning across the Ha-Penny Footbridge over Deptford Creek. "My studio is on the second floor," she is quoted as saying  "I have a small balcony overlooking the creek, which is tidal, always changing.  I like keeping an eye on it.  Ducks, swans, a heron and a kingfisher pass by."


Inside the studio, as the entry continues (and a photograph shows), "I usually have a lot of work in progress at any one time – they come in families, individual paintings that relate strongly to each other.  I occasionally bring  out earlier works, put them up and move them around and see how they inform each other. So there's not really a linear progression – it's more like a Möbius strip, a continuum."


The current show illustrates this well, with three large paintings and seven small ones.  The small ones are dated between 2007 and 2015. They are all abstracts, with fluid paint application on the fields and frequently a few small hard-edge circles floating around on top of those fields, but there's no obvious progression from one to another: all are sui generis – unique.


Sometimes, in their scale, these small paintings remind me of Howard Hodgkin,  Morris's compatriot, but unlike his work they aren't terminally cute.  Rather, they're wise and mellow, packing a punch out of all proportion to their modest dimensions.  And what a variety of tools Morris employs to achieve her effects! As illustrated at the R. A. website, these include not only traditional artist's brushes, housepainter's brushes, and sponges but also a tool which consists of a sponge on a stick and which is called a "diddler."


The three large paintings in this show are the ones for whom the show itself is named. They are "Ghost" (2017), "Third Ghost" (2017) and "October Ghost" (2021). And they are the most elaborate and ambitious works in the show. All three combine a field of large rectangles or squares to which has been added a very faint overlay --  or underlay –of one or more segments of large circles.


These transparent circles are, in my opinion, the reason for the titles of these majestic  paintings: in their very transparency the circles look as though they had died and come back to life – as though they were haunting the canvases. What a world of painstaking labor it must have taken to achieve this extraordinary effect – applying paint, then scraping it away and/or then perhaps re-applying it (?).


Whatever the means the artist used,  the effect is magical.  For the circles don't obliterate the radiantly underlying squares and rectangles. If anything, they dramatize the brilliant reds, blues,  yellows and other colors that characterize these paintings.  The general effect is of paintings at once so still and at the same time, filled with life,

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Henri Matisse. The Red Studio. 1911. Oil on canvas, 71 1/4″ x 7′ 2 1/4″ (181 x 219.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. © 2022 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Yes, I know, you say impatiently. But the painting of "The Red Studio" (1911) by Henri Matisse (1869 - 1954), has been one of the oft-displayed treasures of the Museum of Modern Art since it was acquired in 1949. What's so new about that?  Answer: This compact but far-ranging show united "The Red Studio" itself with almost all the smaller surviving art works that were depicted by the artist within that larger painting.  Those included paintings, sculpture, and a ceramic plate. Read More 

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Francine Tint, Vernal Equinox, 2021. Acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 72 x 126 in. Photograph: Chris Carone.



One might never guess it to look at the svelte and poised little lady known as Francine Tint, but inside her lurks the swashbuckling scenario of those dashing, mustachioed buccaneer-types whose whiplash sword's play animates movie classics from The Sea Hawk  to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. That, at any rate, is the impression one gains from the twelve large to very large and generously animated abstract paintings that constitute "Francine Tint: Life in Action," as curated by Robert C. Morgan and viewable seven days a week from 10 to 5 in the National Arts Club at 15 Gramercy Park South (through December 2). Read More 

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Darby Bannard's Big Little Book



Those of us lucky enough to have known Walter Darby Bannard (1934-2016) will remember that besides being a very fine painter, he was a witty and articulate writer.  The writing by him that I was initially most aware of appeared in art magazines in the '70s and '80s, when he was in the New York area and exhibiting in galleries on the Upper East Side. However, "Aphorisms for Artists: 100 Ways Toward Better Art" belongs to a later period in Bannard's life – the decades when he was in Florida, and teaching (or having taught) art at the University of Miami (toward the latter part of this period, his paintings were being rediscovered in Chelsea). Read More 

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Randy Bloom, Bolide, 2022.  Acrylic on canvas, 28  x 27 inches.  Courtesy Emerge Gallery.


Our review this week is of "Randy Bloom" at Emerge in upstate Saugerties, NY (through September 11).  And do I ever have a distinguished guest critic for you!  The review below is by Katherine Crum, whose Ph.D. is from Columbia, and whose museum experience includes founding the Baruch  College gallery at CUNY, directing the art museum at Mills College in California, and working as chief curator at the Parrish Museum in Southampton.  As owner & co-director of the Nicholas Wilder gallery in Los Angeles, back in the 60s, Ms. Crum represented Frankenthaler, Noland and Barnett Newman, among others, and she has published on figures as diverse as Dan Christensen and Pat Lipsky.    Herewith her review & many thanks to her:


"Randy Bloom's current show at Emerge in Saugerties is a perfect introduction for those who don't yet know her work and a delightful taste of new directions for those who do. Strong work, good choices and a thoughtful installation highlight three phases of her work in one compact space.


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Manierre Dawson (1887-1969), Array in Brown, 1913-14.  Signed and dated at lower left, M. Dawson '13. Oil on canvas, 44 x 36 inches, 111.8 x 91.4 cm (5832). Image credit (c) Estate of Manierre Dawson, Courtesy Schoelkopf Gallery

I've long thought of Manierre Dawson (1887-1969) as "the pink cubist."  I'd only seen individual paintings by him in exhibitions of early American moderns and pink seemed a conspicuous part of his color schemes, while the dates of his paintings and their angular, convoluted shapes reminded me of Picasso & Braque during their heroic period of Analytic Cubism. I am a great fan of Analytic Cubism, so I welcomed the chance to see Dawson's work in greater depth.  On view at Schoelkopf on Manhattan's Upper East Side is "Manierre Dawson: Early Abstraction" (through August 26).  On view are 17 oil paintings done by this elusive master between 1906 and ca.1921 -- and with twelve done between 1910 and 1915, roughly the heyday of Analytic Cubism. Read More 

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Larry Zox (left) and Willard Boepple (right) in "Hard-Edged: Geometric Abstraction" ot Upsilon


In the middle of a hot-hot summer, we have a whole show of cool, cool pictures (both in a literal sense, meaning with the shapes within them mostly carefully-and dispassionately defined, and in a slang sense, that is to say "hip," "with-it" or "the cat's meow" in the slang of other eras). This modestly-scaled but nonetheless ambitious show of 20 paintings by 10 artists is called "Hard-Edged: Geometric Abstraction" and it's at the newest branch of the newish Upsilon Gallery, the branch at 23 East 67th Street (through August13).  


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Milton Avery (1885-1965), Birds over sea, 1957.  Oil on canvas, 56 x 42 in. (142.2 x 106.7 cm.), Photo Credit: Adam Reich courtesy of Yares Art. Copyright: (c) 2022 The Milton Avery Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


This is a big season for the semi-abstract American painter Milton Avery (1885-1965).  For nearly a year a retrospective with almost 70 of his works has been taking a far-flung route, from the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas last fall to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut last winter and opening last week as "Milton Avery: American Colourist" at the Royal Academy of Art in London (where it stays until October 16). Here in New York, Yares Art is celebrating its half-century relationship with the artist's estate by "Milton Avery: Fifty Paintings/Fifty Years" (through July 30). Creating not one but two  museum-quality shows might tax the powers of most artists, but all things considered Avery's powers are more than equal to the task. Read More 

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