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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."



Two years ago, I attempted to cover in breadth the huge Governors Island Art Fair, organized by “The 4heads;” this year, I focus exclusively on one artist, Franklin Einspruch, whose modest but charming exhibition of 9 small- to medium-sized paintings I visited yesterday, on the fair’s opening day. The artist was present, to explain that these scenes of Colonial-style houses, trees & yards in suburban Boston are among his most recent, all done in 2010. The smaller ones are oils, the larger, acrylics. Throughout, shapes are monumental, and paint is slathered on. With the oils, a palette knife was employed, while the acrylics evidence a liberal use of gel, applied with broad brushes, plastic putty knives, and by hand (“advanced finger painting,” the artist jokes). Einspruch professes an admiration for the “London School” of Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossof, but although the kinship is apparent in the heaviness of the paint and commitment to identifiable subject matter, the color in Einspruch’s paintings is clearer than any Auerbach I’ve seen, while the Kossofs I am only able to contemplate online strike me as no less murky than Auerbachs. Despite their figurative orientation, the clearer color and silky texture of Einspruch’s paintings suggest to me touches of Bannard and Olitski in the painter’s esthetic bloodlines – not surprising, since he took his MFA at the University of Miami, where Bannard teaches, and he is still the editor of the online archives of Bannard’s writing. The strongest painting in this show for me is also the largest, “Blue House, Blue Roof, Blue Sky.” Also powerful was one of the smallest, “Commons Fall,” while “Lexi and Vanessa’s House,” reproduced on the invite, is beautifully balanced. A couple of others don’t come together quite as successfully, but who’s counting? On the whole, the level of the show is high.

The fair is open Saturdays & Sundays, 11 to 6, through September, with a closing reception on September 26, which the artist plans to attend. To get to Governors Island from Manhattan, you take the ferry from the South Ferry subway station, reveling in the gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline & New York harbor as you go. Once off the ferry, you take a left, then at the first crossroads, left again, down to the waterfront (orange, blue, black & white signs directing visitors to the Art Fair are prominently placed). Make a right when you reach the waterfront, and walk along the road which leads beside the water to Building 12, Entrance P, second floor. At the top of that first flight of stairs, turn left and pass through the little room with two huge balls of corrugated cardboard. Then turn left again. Yesterday, Einspruch’s even littler room was constantly filled with respectful visitors of all ages. Governors Island is far more crowded than it was two years ago.
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