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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."



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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David Hockney, "Celia, 21 Nov 2019."  Ink and acrylic on paper, 30 1/4 x 22 5/8".© David Hockney. Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt


Traditional representation, especially when its subjects are people, tends to be better box office than abstraction.   So it should come as no surprise that the Morgan Library & Museum was well populated when I recently went there to see "David Hockney: Drawing from Life" (through May 30). If you can deal with the pandemic (which requires reservations at the Morgan) and brave the winter weather, you too may enjoy this lively exhibition featuring more than 100 drawings and prints skillfully depicting the artist's friends and/or business associates, mother and himself over the course of 65 years. Read More 

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JULES OLITSKI (American 1922-2007), Fanny D., 1960. Magna acrylic on canvas, 89 x 89 1/2 inches (26.1 x 227.3cm). Photo Credit: Jason Mandella courtesy of Yares Art. Copyright: (c) 2020 Estate of Jules Olitski licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Catalogue essays for commercial galleries are a special form of literature.  Although their writers are frequently referred to as "critics," these writers do not criticize in the sense that reviewers for independent publications might.  As a rule, too, their essays are expected to focus on the works that the gallery will be displaying in this particular show, and to correlate their remarks with the presentation itself.


That said, there is still considerable illumination and edification to be gained from a careful study of the three essays and the "Chronology" contained in "Jules Olitski: Color to the Core, Paintings 1960-1964," the 124-page, lavishly-illustrated outsize catalogue accompanying the spectacular exhibition at Yares Art in New York of 33 medium-sized to large paintings and nine small oil pastels executed between 1959 and 1965.   (This show was scheduled to close on January 30 when I posted my review of it on January 4, but I am happy to report its run has been extended to March 12.). Read More 

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"Gerald Jackson: Recent Releases II" at Wilmer Jennings,  November 27, 2020 to January 30, 2021.  Photograph by Christian Carone.

Certain exhibitions leave one with a happy feeling.  This isn't always because every picture in them is a masterpiece.  It may be because one gets the feeling that the artist had fun making the work on view: that even when he may have been fooling around, he was experimenting. And isn't experiment what modern art is supposed to be all about?


 If you want to see such a show, you need to get to "Gerald Jackson: Recent Releases, II" in Wilmer Jennings at 219 East Second Street quickly. That is because due to the pandemic I was only able to get there myself last week, and the show has only a week more to run—from Wednesday to Saturday, 11 to 6, through January 30. Read More 

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Mark Rothko, Browns and Blacks in Reds, 1957. Oil on canvas, 91 x 60 inches (231.1. x 152.4 cm). © 1998 by Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko
& Frederic Edwin Church, Marine Sunset (The Black Sea), 1881-1882.  Oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 42 inches (76.5 x 106.7 cm). Michael Altman Fine Art & Advisory Services. 
Photograph by Tom Powell Imaging, Inc. New York

 At Mnuchin on East 78th Street we have "Church & Rothko: Sublime" (through March 13).   This show combines 17 small- to medium-sized paintings by Frederic E. Church (1826-1900), the second-generation Hudson River School painter, with eight medium-sized to large paintings by Mark Rothko (1903-1970), the first-generation abstract expressionist.  From an ideological point of view, it is an interesting and provocative combination, worthy of the discussion I hope to give it. Visually, though, it is nolo contendere. Read More 

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José Clemente Orozco, Zapatistas, 1931. Oil on canvas, 45 × 55 in. (114.3 ×
139.7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York; given anonymously. ©
2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City. Digital
image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY



At the Whitney Museum of American Art we have "Vida Americana: Mexican  Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945" (through January 31, 2021).  This is a large and diverse exhibition of approximately 200 works by 60 artists from Mexico and the United States. It aims to show how that curious blend of populism and modernism that developed in Mexico in the wake of its early 20th century political revolution influenced artists in the United States in the period between 1925 and 1945.


Visually, there is a lot to like in this show, and I recommend it for that reason.  But don't go expecting any attempt to recreate the full range of U.S. art & culture in the period under discussion. Rather, we get the usual conformity to 21st century verities.

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Jules Olitski, Fair Charlotte, 1961.  Acrylic on canvas, 80 x 122 inches (203.2 x 309.9 cm). (Inv#2451).  Courtesy of Yares Art, New York.


I don't have much to say about "Jules Olitski: Color to the Core: Paintings 1960-1964" at Yares Art on Fifth Avenue (through January 30).  That is partly because I have often written about Olitski, and his enormous talents are well-known to many if not most of my readers. It is also partly because I want to post this review as early as possible in the new year, in hopes of alerting more viewers in time for them to get to the show itself.  Let nobody think I don't admire it!  Au contraire, I found it sensational, a terrific feast for the eyes and strongly recommended in fair times or foul.  Don't miss it!


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Installation shot, "Cleve Gray: Paintings on Paper" at Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art, November 19, 2020 - January 16, 2021.  Left to right: "Jerusalem III," "Roman Wall (Blue)," and "Conjunction II."  Copyright Anders Walhstedt Fine Art.


I've wanted to write about Cleve Gray (1918-2004) for some time.  Every so often, I've seen a terrific painting by him in a group show, but whatever solo exhibitions of his paintings that I may have seen at Loretta Howard in the past few years just didn't do it for me. At long last, though, a Gray show has come along that I can heartily recommend.  True, it contains only 17 smaller and less ambitious works, but many and maybe most of them are of high quality.


Called "Cleve Gray: Paintings on Paper," this show is now on view at Anders Wahlstedt Fine Art(through January 16, 2021, and including Dec. 29 through 31). This gallery  specializes in works on paper, and is now located at 521 West 26th Street, in the space formerly occupied by Loretta Howard. Howard herself continues to do business online, and in her capacity as representing the Gray estate, is co-sponsor for this show. Read More 

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Paul Signac. Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon in 1890. 1890. Oil on canvas. 29 x 36 1/2″ (73.5 x 92.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David Rockefeller, 1991. Photo by Paige Knight. © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


In 21st century America, "anarchists" is a term used by Donald Trump to attack left-leaning, often poor and especially African-American people in cities who demonstrate against him.  But in late 19th century France, the term might be a compliment: even middle-class and even affluent white people could be anarchists.   One such was Félix Fénéon (1861-1944), subject of a meandering but ultimately highly enjoyable exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art called "Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde—From Signac to Matisse and Beyond" (through January 2, 2021).The nicest part of it is that we get the politics (anarchism) over with relatively early in the show, and focus far more on the esthetics (avant-garde). Read More 

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Henri Matisse. Masque au petit nez (Mask with Small Nose), 1948. Aquatint on paper. Sheet: 25 1/2 x 19 3/4 inches (64.8 x 50.2 cm).  Image: 17 x 15 5/8 inches (43.2 x 34.6 cm). (c)2020 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of Kasmin Gallery.


In our current troubling and depressing time, I'm so glad that Kasmin has mounted "Henri Matisse: Matisse in Black and White" (through December 19).This is a modest, non-commercial show of only 23 black-and-white paintings, drawings, and prints, together with 1 color print, 2 small black sculptures and three bound volumes, but it still serves admirably to remind us all over again of just why we love Matisse. Read More 

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