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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."



William Perehudoff (1918 - 2013), AC-87-85, 1987. Acrylic on canvas, 55 5/8 x 53 7/8 in. (141.3 x 136.8 cm). © Perehudoff Artwork. Courtesy Berry Campbell Gallery, New York



Berry Campbell has so many interesting exhibitions that I have to ration my visits there.  However, this show was a standout.  Covering nearly four decades in the career of one of Canada's most illustrious painters, it was entitled, "William Perehudoff: Architect of Color" (closed May 24).


I have written about this distinguished artist often enough so I see no need to rehearse his long and eventful career in its entirety.


Suffice it to say that although he was born in 1918, the same decade as Pollock and Carmen Herrera, he didn't really hit his abstract stride until the Swinging Sixties, and didn't die until the ripe age of 94 in 2013. 


The undoubted star of this show was "Allegro (AC-67-002)," a magisterial hard-edged geometric color-field abstraction from 1967, nearly 8 feet tall and more than 6 feet wide. 


It was composed of a series of brilliantly-colored vertical bars of paint that kind of dangled, like a series of banners of various sizes, on a white field.


Reading from left to right, they were bright yellow, vivid orange, bright red and deep, strong purple, bold blue and another bright red. Remarkable!


But the rest of the show also had a lot to recommend it, even if most of it was from the 1970s and 80s. 


During this lesser-known period, Perehudoff – in company with other distinguished color-field painters – evolved from hard-edged abstraction to a more melting and fluid painterly style. 


Of the 22 works on the checklist, most were from this period and as I worked my way through the show to the very back of the gallery, I saw a lot of work I liked, especially the pumpkin-colored "AC-83-17" (1987) and the juicily tri-colored "AC-82-041" (1982).


The most seductive work on view, I ultimately decided, was the three paintings that commanded the street entrance.


Just to the left of that entrance, and on the same wall, was the tall, narrow "AC-82-022" (1982). Composed of more vertical stripes, it reminded me initially of Poons, but instead of being poured, it was painted – which gave it a very distinctive appearance.


Larger and yet more inventive was "AC-90-036" (1990), which hung on the wall to the left of the entrance (and at right angles to it).  This was composed of a row of unusually appealing and very softly-limned vertical floating bars of mauve, blues and greens, possibly applied with a sponge??? 


Best was the painting directly facing the entrance, "AC-87-85 (1987). For a background, there was a field of misty purplish gray that looked as though it had been sprayed on.  Shades of Olitski!


But it was also completely different from Olitski because on top of this cloudy mist floated three firmly but gently hard-edged freeform shapes of opaque paint.


The left one was brown, the center one was mauve, and the one to the right was a dusty mint green. Admirable!



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