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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."



Frank Bowling, Metropolitanblooms, 1982. Acrylic on canvas, 35 1/8 x 26 5/8 inches. Courtesy Hales Project Room.
Having arrived on this planet the year before Poons did, Frank Bowling is now comfortably ensconced among the ranks of the octogenarians. He too continues to paint away as busily as ever in his London studio, but for its inaugural exhibition, the pocket-sized Hales Project Room on Delancey Street opted to offer to American viewers six modestly scaled Bowling acrylics on canvas executed in the late 70s and early 80s, when the artist was working a London studio measuring just 12 x 14 feet.

The show as a whole is called “Frank Bowling: Metropolitanbloooms” (through October 15).

This period was approximately when Valentin Tatransky was writing that Bowling was our best British painter, and one can see some of what he meant, though Tatransky’s words actually occur, as best I recall them, in a review of larger works.

All of these paintings are taller than they are wide. The tallest is only 6 feet high; the widest is less than 3 feet wide.

All six are close-valued, with torrents of puddled and poured ovals of paint. Here are my notes on all of them.

1) "Potarovines" (1978), "earliest, green & gold -- bold & enterprising."
2) "Kadamba'schoice" (1980), "grays, white & touches of tans & yellow near top -- severe."
3) "Rupunuired" (1980), "richest, darkest, brown field, green, maroon red & yellow overlay -- commanding."
4) "Metropolitanblooms" (1982), "dusty rose, strips of red, aqua underpainting -- delicate, meditative."
5) "Vase" (1985), "purples, yellows -- gentle, unassuming"
6) "Autumn Flare" (1986), "smallest, cutest, pink, gold, green -- heavenly as opposed to earthly."

These are very gentle, wise works, no wisecracks here – only a serious dedication to beauty. And they are practically impossible to reproduce—the one most likely to convey some hint of their magic is the title picture from the show.

So -- go see the paintings for yourselves.

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