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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."



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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Installation view of Anne Truitt: Sound at Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, November 12 – December 19, 2020. Credit: ©annetruitt.org/Bridgeman Images/Matthew Marks Gallery

A totally lovely if strangely Spartan show is "Anne Truitt: Sound" at Matthew Marks (through December 19).   Resolutely minimal – as Truitt always was – this show consists of 14 works on paper, each about 20 inches square and created in 2003, the year before her death at the age of 83.  In addition, there are two smaller sculptures dating from 1999. All are from the estate, which the gallery represents, and this is the first time they have been shown. Although late work by even the best artists can be problematic, the "Sound" series in particular – the paper works – are authentically light and airy: they could have been created by the artist in her prime. Read More 

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Exhibition catalogue cover, "The Color of Seasons: Nature and Abstraction in the Paintings of Carolyn Newberger and Philip Gerstein"

I have two more exhibition catalogues to report on. The first, with an essay by Jeffrey Katzin, accompanied the show of Kenneth Noland entitled "Noland: Flares."  This show was held during the spring and summer of 2020 at Pace in New York (I reviewed it at that time). The second catalogue is entitled "The Color of Seasons: Nature and Abstraction in the Paintings of Carolyn Newberger and Philip Gerstein." This catalogue was intended to accompany a show of two somewhat younger artists that was to be held at Galatea in Boston from April 1 to 26, 2020, but was cancelled due to the pandemic. This catalogue includes an opening statement signed by the two artists jointly, essays by each, plus a third essay by Brian George. Read More 

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"Willard Boepple: Wood and Paper, Sculpture and Prints," at Pamela Salisbury, Hudson, NY, June 27 to July 26, 2020.



Over the summer, with so many galleries on hiatus, I found myself collecting catalogues instead of going to shows as often as I'd like.  I now have acquired a number of these catalogues, and propose in this post to discuss two of them.  One catalogue, entitled "Esteban Vicente," accompanied a show that I'd seen and reviewed; the other, entitled "Willard Boepple: Wood and Paper, Sculpture and Prints," accompanied a show that I only wish I'd seen.  On the basis of what else I've seen of Boepple's work, I feel sure that I'd have given this show my usual rave review. Read More 

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Jackson Pollock, Mural, 1943. Oil and casein on canvas, 242.9 x 603.9 cm. University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, Gift of Peggy Guggenheim, 1959.6 © 2020 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

…..And so the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan has re-opened, though you need to be virus-free, reserve a ticket in advance,  wear a mask, and observe social distancing.  I did all this (or at least I think I did) for the media preview on October 3.  Principally, I came to see "Mural" (1943), the first painting by Jackson Pollock that convinced Clement Greenberg that the artist was truly great.  On the way in and out, however, I got brief glimpses of three other shows, so I will mention them in passing before zeroing in on my visit's real raison d'être.


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