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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."



Morris Louis (American 1912-1962), "Mira." 1962. Acrylic on canvas, 82.52 x 32.99 inches, 209.6 x 83.8cm. Photography, Jason Mandella.


At Yares Art, on Fifth Avenue 34 blocks south of the Jewish Museum, we have two eminently satisfactory exhibitions of more recent abstract art. The first is "Larry Poons/Frank Stella: As It Was/As It Is." The second is "Fields of Color III" (both through July 31).  They afford a contrast that parallels my own development as a writer on abstraction. The first show equates to a period before I'd awakened to abstraction, and before I'd met either artist.  The second represents a period after I'd met them both, and after Bill Rubin had sensitized me to abstraction--though much of the work in it was also done prior to the spring of 1968 (when Rubin effected this sensitization). Read More 

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Installation shot, "Modern Look" at The Jewish Museum


As I was raised in an era when the word "modern" was commonly supposed to  mean the latest and most adventurous style around, I was naturally eager to see "Modern Look: Photography and the American Magazine" at The Jewish Museum (through July 11).  However, this elaborately-installed show of 150 works including vintage photographs, art book layouts and magazine cover designs from the 1930s, '40s and '50s offers a very different view of that era from the one I myself experienced as a child, a younger journalist and a more mature scholar.   Though I'm sure this new exhibition was carefully planned, and affords a wealth of technical information that I never knew before, visually I found it far less appealing than I was expecting upon the basis of my own knowledge of the three magazines it centers around.


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Willem de Kooning, "Woman," c. 1950.  Graphite and wax crayon on paperboard, double sided, 13 1/8 x 10 inches (33 x 25 cm).  Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.  © 2021 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


I don't know when I saw a neat, lovingly precise pencil drawing of Elaine de Kooning created ca. 1940-41 by Willem de Kooning.  Was it 1968, when one such drawing was reproduced in the catalogue to MoMA's de Kooning retrospective of that year? Or has it – or another like it -- been displayed more recently? 


Anyway, I hoped to re-view it, and/or see other drawings of women like it, when I visited "Willem de Kooning Drawings" at Matthew Marks (through June 26).  I didn't see it, or anything like it, but two later drawings of women led me to award de Kooning a title that he might not have liked, but that his postmodernist fans should appreciate: "Step-Dad of Pop" Read More 

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Friedel Dzubas, Nightroot, 1973. Magna on canvas, 61 x 140 in. Courtesy Leslie Feely Gallery

I'm enthusiastic about the paintings of the great modernist painter Friedel Dzubas, and happy that he's had a show in Manhattan in all but one of the past five years. I've reviewed every one of these shows, as well as publishing the review of a book about him in 2020, the year he didn't have a Manhattan show. I'm happy that Leslie Feely is enabling me to keep this string of reviews unbroken by staging "Friedel Dzubas, 'Color Release:' Paintings from the Lipman Family Collection"  at a Special Exhibition Location, 507 West 27th Street, (through May 31,  Tuesday through Saturday, 12 to 6). My only problem is that I'm running out of fresh things to say, and I hate repeating myself. Read More 

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Enrico Donati, "Bateau Ivre," 1942. Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in. Courtesy Washburn Gallery, New York. © The E. D. Art Revocable Trust

New York in the 1940s was a surreal city, bizarre and unreal because there was a war on and because so many Parisian surrealists had come to it to escape that war. In 2021 the Covid-19 pandemic makes New York seem even more surreal & bizarre – everybody's worst dreams come true.  So what could be more appropriate than "Enrico Donati: Surrealist Paintings from the 1940s" at Washburn (through July)? Read More 

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Franklin Einspruch, Tulips in Vase, 2021. Watercolor and egg tempera on paper, 9 x 6 inches.

For some years now, I have been hot on the trail of an elusive group of realists (yes, realists).   This group calls itself Zeuxis, in honor of the ancient Greek painter whose art was so true to life that birds pecked at his pictures of grapes. At long last Zeuxis (the group, not the ancient Greek) is having a show at First Street (which is actually at 526 West 26th Street).  And, unlike so many of this group's shows, this one will be up long enough so that my readers can go and see it for themselves.  It is called "Composing in the Key of S" (through May 22), and I found it highly enjoyable. Read More 

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In March, The Penguin Press published "Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York," a book by Alexander Nemerov.  Nemerov is the 57-year-old art history professor who teaches at Stanford, and who this past winter contributed an essay to the catalogue for the "Core" paintings of Jules Olitski at Yares (see my post of  February 10 below) Read More 

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Mark Tobey, Sharp Field, 1960.  Tempera, 6 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches. Courtesy Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art.


If you believe everything you read online, Jackson Pollock owed his celebrated "all-over" style entirely to the "white writing" of Mark Tobey. This anyway is how Tobey's Wikipedia entry tells it,  To me, this is like comparing a candle to a bonfire, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy "Mark Tobey: Nature's Patterns," eighteen mostly-small but still highly enjoyable works at Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art (through May 12). A candle can be beautiful, too -- and even a candle may ignite a blaze. Read More 

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Frank Wimberley, "Untitled," 1987. Acrylic and collage on board, 33 1/2 x 27 1/4 in  Courtesy Berry Campbell.


I've followed the career of Frank Wimberley since 1999, but that's only a fraction of his total career. Born in Pleasantville, New Jersey, in 1926, he's now in his 90s and has been exhibiting since 1969. Primarily, he's known as an abstract painter.   However, he's also made collages and nearly everything else from ceramics to assemblages, so for those who know him best, it comes as no surprise that his current show is "Frank Wimberley: Collage" at Berry Campbell (through April 17). Read More 

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Goya (Francisco de Goya y Lucientes) (Spanish, 1746–1828). Plate 42 from Los Caprichos: Thou who canst not (Tu que no puedes.), 1799. Etching, burnished aquatint, Sheet 11 5/8 × 8 1/4 in. (29.5 × 21 cm); plate 8 1/2 × 5 7/8 in. (21.5 × 15 cm).The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of M.
Knoedler & Co., 1918 (18.64[42])



"There's no question in my mind but that Goya's "Third of May" is better than anything Pollock could paint," Clement Greenberg told a Bennington seminar in 1971. It's unlikely New York will get to see a full-dress retrospective of Francisco Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) any time soon, with or without "The Third of May.".  But we do have another way of celebrating that Spanish master, with "Goya's Graphic Imagination,"  a wickedly handsome show of about 50 prints and about 50 drawings, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (through May 2). True, most of these works on paper are from the Met's own extensive collection, but the show also includes some memorable loans. Even more importantly, it highlights an aspect of the master that is often overlooked. Read More 

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