Our review this week is of "Randy Bloom" at Emerge in upstate Saugerties, NY (through September 11). And do I ever have a distinguished guest critic for you! The review below is by Katherine Crum, whose Ph.D. is from Columbia, and whose museum experience includes founding the Baruch College gallery at CUNY, directing the art museum at Mills College in California, and working as chief curator at the Parrish Museum in Southampton. As owner & co-director of the Nicholas Wilder gallery in Los Angeles, back in the 60s, Ms. Crum represented Frankenthaler, Noland and Barnett Newman, among others, and she has published on figures as diverse as Dan Christensen and Pat Lipsky. Herewith her review & many thanks to her:
"Randy Bloom's current show at Emerge in Saugerties is a perfect introduction for those who don't yet know her work and a delightful taste of new directions for those who do. Strong work, good choices and a thoughtful installation highlight three phases of her work in one compact space.
"The show is punctuated by three examples of a recent body of work (2019-2020) exploring forms that are four-sided, but that resist characterization as "windows" or "doors," "openings" or even "rectangles." (Jane, Green and Gold Bar, 19-10). Some are frame-like, yet elongated, some are flat, some are layered. But all are somehow unexpected. There's no sense of being "here" looking through to "there." No "me" looking out at "that." What is felt is a single flowing world of perceiving.
"There's a wonderful strangeness to the color, too. It's hard to find English words that correspond to one central color in 19-10, for example; greenish, yellowish, blueish, revealing the mind's usual categories (or at least this mind's categories.) The mind also seems to have standards for saturation; the terms "whitened" or "lightened" arise when saturation is less than expected, as in 19-10; "dense" or "saturated" in the blue-violet of Jane.
"The largest group of paintings in the show is the most recent, dating from 2022. These intense paintings show us a painter "bearing down," as Clement Greenberg might have said, looking deeply, thoroughly exploring lived experience without regard to rules, expectations, taste. These paintings explore what it is to look at surfaces. Three silvery-gray paintings (22-03, Aphelion, Cladera) and two blue (Bolide, Ocean Above) seem to have surfaces that one can look through to layers beneath. Although these surface colors are calm, the layers beneath have very different emotional tones, one a little agitated, one calligraphic, each unique.
"Viewing them together feels like the experience of key changes in a Schubert sonata, where the emotional "feel" modulates with the key. In addition, there are tiny punctuations, many of which won't be visible in photographs.
"Thick, bright dabs, nearly transparent circles, bars, dots, and all of them unpredictable, frustrating any construction of pattern by the mind. (I was reminded of the feeling one has during the eye-doctor's field test; no patterns, disconcertingly unpredictable.) Or sometimes an indescribably bizarre shape appears, as in Cladera, one that is not like an organic shape, not like a puddle, not solid, not fluid. Every inch of every painting in this series feels alive. This is especially true of the outermost edges, where very thin, subtly colored bands extend around the stretcher bars' edges.
"The show represents a third body of work with one framed example (C-7), plus a portfolio of about a dozen related works that can be viewed separately. Bloom has a great affinity for, and mastery of papermaking. The works at Emerge, made with variously colored paper pulp, were all produced in one [marathon] weekend at Dieu Donne´ Papermill in New York City. They offer, again, completely different surface qualities, because, with a few slight exceptions, the colors are embedded, not layered.
"Everything in this exhibition shows that usual seeing is just that, usual seeing. And yet there is no need to be confined to usual seeing, usual categories, usual labels, usual guidelines or rules. Not one of these works has a "main theme" to be grasped or summarized or outlined. Every inch of every painting is alive and energetic. And unexpected because the usual expectation-categories are taken away and replaced with the delicious experience of seeing—and being--in the world at this moment. This is an exhibition to be savored."
On view through Sunday, September 11. Normal hours are Friday and Saturday, 1 to 6; Sunday, 12 to 5.. On Labor Day weekend, hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 5 – closed Monday.