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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."



When I got the invitation to “21 Americans,” the show at Bernard Jacobson, I sighed at names like Lichtenstein, Stella, Rauschenberg & Wesselman. I know that any new gallery which wants to lure traffic may be obliged to offer such Big Names, along with art I want to see, so I am resigned paying a price for enjoying myself. However, when I got to the gallery, I was pleased to find that even the most noxious pop stars of the ‘60s were represented by neat, well-chosen and inoffensive examples of their work. Both Lichtenstein and Wesselman, for example, are seen to good advantage with restrained still life arrangements, while Stella’s contribution is a shiny conical-shaped green piece that reminds me of a Christmas tree. True, the Rauschenberg didn’t do much for me, nor did the Jessica Stockholder, but I really grooved with “Radical Love – 15,” an Olitski from 1972 in a lovely warm nutmeg or suntan color (it has too much life to be classed as “ocher”). Another winner is “Chromachord #18” (1998) by James Hayward, a small, thickly-smeared abstract oil in black, deep blue, deep green & purple. “Yellow Leaves #1" (2006), by Alex Katz, is tiny (9" x 12"), and classically simple: just yellow leaves & a gray tree trunk on a lighter gray field. There is a nice, good-sized Frankenthaler from 1984, “Quattrocento,” with large greens & deep browns & a characteristically goosey yellow accent, as well as a fascinatingly crude & roughly-brushed 1973 Motherwell from the “Open” series. (“Untitled (Ultramarine and Ochre Open)”). Quite unlike most of this series, which generally look very suave & finished. Works by Poons and Noland are also present. Most of this art is on the small side–one is tempted to think of it as pieces that would do very well as gifts for a young person furnishing what real estate agents call a “starter apartment.” .These look like “starter art,” designed to show a future collector what art can do to his or her home – and life. Through June 21.
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