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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."



This has been a social month for me, so I'll cover it in an appropriately chatty manner. Feature attractions are the shows by Frank Bowling, whom I haven’t dealt with at length since 2006, and Joyce Weinstein, whose work I’ve reviewed twice within the last two years. I’ll also mention four upcoming Canadian shows.


On September 1, I attended the opening of “Joyce Weinstein: Country Fields” at Ezair (through September 30). Weinstein is again showing her piles of squares or rectangles, energetically outlined in black or contrasting colors, on fields more often white, though sometimes colored, and with dancing spatters of color sometimes cascading down to lend variety. Of the fourteen paintings in the show, ten are dated 2010 & four are dated 2009. At least two of the ones from 2009 were in the group show at Larry Salander’s gallery in Millbrook that I reported upon in January (I mentioned them by name). Of the two, “Autumn Country Fields with Magenta” still stands out, but the other two here particularly worthy are both from this year: “June Country Fields with a Yellow,” and especially “Winter Country Fields at Dusk,” the latter mysteriously managing to suggest snow-covered fields in the crepuscule. At the opening, I ran into Elizabeth Stevens, who used to work at Salander, and organized last year’s travelling Stanley Boxer show. She is now in the art handling business.

On September 9, I attended the opening of “Decameron: David Cohen’s Decade of Exhibitions at the New York Studio School 2001-2010” (through October 10). The invitation lists 65 artists, alphabetically from Frank Auerbach to Norman Turner. Most are represented by small examples of their work, a few by larger ones, and a very small number by reproductions of one sort or another (usually when the originals are too large to include in a group show). All the 65 participants were in past exhibitions at the New York Studio School gallery while Cohen was in charge. He is now standing down (covered with glory) in order to concentrate on writing and publishing, particularly through artcritical.com, his webzine that underwent an extended facelift this summer. Among the works on display, I was happy to see a fine small sculpture, “Five Cart Loads” (2008), by Jilaine Jones, and a handsome untitled 1971 gouache by Jack Bush. The two very large & very beautiful sculptures by Charles Hewlings that constituted his show in the spring of 2002 are present only in the form of slides included in the slide show at the entrance (and are also featured at the exhibition’s website). Rebecca Smith is represented by an interesting painted steel sculpture, “Green Insect” (2009), made of strips that climb up a wall. It made me curious to have seen her solo exhibition this past spring at the gallery. I have seen so much conceptual work by Smith in the past that I thought this was a show I could safely skip, but evidently not.

Among the living exhibits at the wine-and-cheese opening were Jim Walsh (leaving just as I was arriving), Claudia Carr (who used to have a gallery in SoHo, about 10 years ago), Anita Shapolsky (who, of course, still has a gallery, on the Upper East Side), Allegra (David Cohen’s charming little Italian greyhound), and Cohen himself (naturally). Also present was Richard Timperio, who is both a dealer and an artist and was exulting because new work by him is included in “What Art Can Do,” a group show at Art 101 in Williamsburg of six artists who are also dealers (through October 17). “I don’t have to worry about retirement,” he was saying, with his booming laugh. “I don’t have to learn to play golf, because I’ll always have something to do. I don’t have to run around from one religion to another, because I already believe in something, even if it’s not definable.”


Two weeks later, I got to Williamsburg to see the show, whose other participants are Daniel Aycock, Kathleen Vance, Randall Harris, Todd Rosenbaum, and Alun Williams. It was a very hot day, but Ellen Rand, the proprietor of Art 101, made me welcome with a chair & a big, lovely glass of cool water. She, too, is an artist, and exhibits with Timperio’s monster group exhibition right after New Year’s, but considered it inappropriate to include her own work in the present show. No offense to the other participants, but as far as I was concerned, Timperio is the star of “What Art Can Do.” His pictures, all on paper, are totally different in style from earlier work by him that I’ve seen. My previous experience of his work was with large, heavily gestural canvases, but these are much smaller works on paper, the smallest in watercolor & the next smallest acrylic. The light, airy designs on the paper include brightly-colored little or larger circles (with holes in the middle) or disks (solid color), mounted on a field of broad bands of somewhat cooler colors. The acrylics come off better than the watercolors, especially the big one in the bottom row at the center

Following this visit, I ankled over to Timperio’s own gallery, Sideshow, where he’s displaying “Don Christensen: Digitalized” (through October 10). Don is Dan’s younger brother, and his show consists of work from several periods. The best are the most recent, hard-edged geometric abstractions whose compositions have been achieved by Photoshopping a design, then printing it up, sketching & then painting a blown-up version of it on the canvas. All this technology doesn’t really alter the fundamental look of the paintings, of which “Warwick Blvd.” (2010) is the best, with its offbeat combination of olive, navy blue and aqua.....On the way home, I stopped off for the wine-and-cheese opening of the grandiosely-titled "United States Artists Biennal" at "The Broadway Gallery" in SoHo (really the 7th Floor offices of NY Arts Magazine). As 50 artists were included, the noise & crush were appalling, but the only one of those 50 whom I'd ever heard of was Irene Neal, who fortunately was there, along with her hubby Paul. Neal's three paintings stood out from the surrounding ones.


On September 14, I attended the opening of “Frank Bowling, O. B. E., RA: Paintings, 1974-2010,” a large, ambitious show at Spanierman Modern (through October 16). It was lovely to see Randy Bloom at the opening, as it was she who first introduced me to Bowling. The checklist to this show includes 24 paintings, half done in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and the rest since 2002. The last time that I reviewed a Bowling show in New York, at G.R.N'Namdi in 2006, some work from the ‘80s was included, but not nearly this much, nor do I recall any abstractions from the '70s. It’s the inclusion of so much work from the ‘70s &’80s that sets this exhibition off from the previous high-water mark in Bowling exhibitions, the wonderful one of work from the ‘90s that was staged at the Skylight Gallery in the Restoration Plaza Center for Art & Culture in Brooklyn, in 1997. The present show looks especially great in the Spanierman gallery, which has large picture windows giving out onto Fifty-Eighth Street. These make it possible to see the big paintings from the ‘70s and ‘80s from the proper distance (the later, smaller work is hung on smaller partitions backing on the street, and only visible once one gets inside the gallery).

Bowling is really on a roll just now, following his election to the Royal Academy of Art in 2005 and his appointment as an officer in the Order of the British Empire (an honor bestowed by the Queen that entitles him to a coat of arms, should he wish for one). A book is being written about him by Mel Gooding, and a movie by Rose Jones is in preparation, too. Next June, there will be a special small gallery devoted exclusively to Bowling works on paper at Somerset House, coinciding with the Royal Academy’s big summer show there, and also coinciding with the book launch & movie premiere. In the meantime, his “map paintings” from the later ‘60s will be featured in November at PINTA, New York’s 3rd Annual Latin American art fair, to be held in Chelsea.

The “map paintings,” with their sociopolitical overtones, are probably Bowling’s best-known work, especially in England, but it is the abstract work that he has created since which to me will form the basis of his lasting fame. Gooding, in the exhibition catalogue for the Spanierman show, suggests that the formalism which the artist embraced, starting in the later ‘70s, liberated him to explore those aspects of picture-making that mattered to him most. And Gooding also gives full credit to Clement Greenberg for the way in which he offered Bowling advice & encouragement.

Of the paintings in the show, the work from the 70s is composed of free-flowing, glowingly colored pourings. An especially fine example of this period is “13th Hour” (1976), a tall, narrow painting with a central vertical shaft of sunny yellow set on a pale pink field, and garnished with accents of russet and yellow-green. Among the paintings of the ‘80s, the most monumental (at 8’ x 6’) is “Odysseus’s Footfalls” (1982), a painting with cloudy, mottled & subdued, closely-valued shades of mauve, pink, and greenish white. The whimsical title, inspired by a book of Greek myths, was added after the painting had been completed, and somehow, a large foot-like shape had descended through its middle. The more recent paintings are smaller and occasionally a tad problematic, but there are plenty of lovely ones to choose from. As so often in Bowling’s oeuvre, they combine squares, strips and rectangles of mellow greens and reds stapled into place. Among the best & most recent are a series of three in which a field primarily of yellow sits in the center, ornamented with vigorous dabs of pink and blue, and framed by strips of contrasting hues. Of these three, “Old Dutch Vase” (2010) is the most appealing, but then the whole show is richly rewarding, a triumph.


The 18th annual exhibition of the Edmonton Contemporary Artists' Society will be held from October 8 to 28th, at Enterprise Square (the former Bay Building), in Edmonton. The opening, on Friday, October 8, is from 7-11 pm. The Public Lecture, on “Art in Edmonton,” will be delivered by Terry Fenton, on Saturday, October 9 at 2 pm, also at Enterprise Square…..Also in Edmonton, Peter Robertson will be showing ”Terrence Keller: Keller Colour,” October 2 to 14; opening reception Saturday, October 2, 2 to 4 pm.

At the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, “The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a retrospective,” October 1 to January 9, 2011. Opening reception, Friday, October 1, 8 pm. “Conversations with Special Guests,” Saturday, October 2, 2 pm… Also in Saskatoon, “John McLean and William Perehudoff: “A Conversation in Colour,” at art placement, September 30 to October 27; “Coffeehouse reception,” Saturday, October 2, 3 pm.
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