Donald Kuspit

  • Ursula von Rydingsvard, OGRÒDEK (Garden), 2022, cedar and graphite, 54 × 37 1⁄2 × 13 1⁄2".

    Ursula von Rydingsvard

    Tree after tree, each stripped barren and leafless: not the proverbial tree of life, but something else—a symbol of death, a memento mori of suffering and pain, its “bark swollen,” and “obscene,” akin to the chestnut tree that revealed its nothingness to Antoine Roquentin, the hero of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea (1938).

    Why does Ursula von Rydingsvard make art? “To survive,” she said in a 2019 interview, “because it’s a place to put my pain, my sadness.” Born in Germany in 1942 to a Polish mother and a Ukrainian father, she endured, alongside her family (her parents, four brothers, and two sisters),

  • Jules Olitski, Code of Shem, 1990, acrylic on canvas, 68 1⁄4 × 69 1⁄4". © Jules Olitski ArtFoundation/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Jules Olitski

    In celebration of what would have been the year that Jules Olitski (1922–2007) turned one hundred, Yares Art presents just as many of the painter’s works in this marvelous retrospective, which covers every aspect of his long career. Beautifully installed, the exhibition is a tour de force of a twentieth-century master—that is, an artist who was capable of providing us with an ever-changing “sensation of the new,” to refer to Charles Baudelaire’s famous remark, amplified by the French poet’s assertion that modernism is “the transitory, fugitive element, whose metamorphoses are so rapid.” Was

  • View of “Peter Sacks,” 2022. From left: Without Title 1, Without Title 2, Without Title 3, all 2022. All from the series “Without Title,” 2022.

    Peter Sacks

    This exhibition highlighted four new bodies of work by Peter Sacks. Two of them—the “Without Title” and “Without Name” series, both 2022—were mixed-media paintings. They were differentiated by size: The three “Without Title” works were large, if not grandiose, each measuring eight feet by six feet, while the four “Without Name” pieces were each four feet by four feet. Both series feature a mishmash of found materials, a sort of Sargasso Sea of debris. They are a “real paradise,” as van Gogh described the “place where the street-cleaners dump the rubbish.” (“My God, it was beautiful!” he exclaimed.)

  • Frank Owen, Seeker, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 50 × 40".

    Frank Owen

    Painter Frank Owen, now eighty-three, is still making dramatic and complex works charged with spontaneous gestures, bold geometric forms, and surprising juxtapositions of luminous color. One is supposedly less active and able in old age, but not Owen, as the paintings in “Retrospection,” his solo presentation at Nancy Hoffman Gallery, clearly affirm.

    His compositions are remarkably energetic and acknowledge his debt to Abstract Expressionism. Although the artist was struck by Jackson Pollock’s art when he was a young man, he goes his own exuberant way, eschewing Jack the Dripper’s more death-inflected

  • Joan Snyder, Symphony of Pain and Joy, 2022, oil, acrylic, papier-mâché, paper, and ink on linen, 54 × 66".

    Joan Snyder

    Joan Snyder’s abstractions, bold and delirious responses to nature, are imbued with intense feeling. Take Symphony of Pain and Joy, 2022—one of the seven canvases in “To Become a Painting,” her exhibition at Franklin Parrasch Gallery—a prismatic, taxonomic display of exuberant mark-marking and sensuous form that is at once steadied and explosive. A kind of theatrical grandeur is evident in Snyder’s work, some of which includes elements of the outside world (of course, she uses paint—oil, acrylic—but she also incorporated twigs, grasses, dirt, flowers, and other sylvan items into a few of the

  • Francis Bacon, Figure in Movement, 1972, oil and dry-transfer lettering on canvas, 78 × 58".

    Francis Bacon

    Five of the ten portrait paintings in this Francis Bacon exhibition, “Faces & Figures,” were studies, indicating that they may have been works in progress. The artist’s hyperactive, agitated brushstrokes seem to imply that a person’s true essence can never be definitively nailed down. Thus, Bacon (1909–1992) offers us Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on light ground), 1964, bizarre embryonic renderings of his burglar lover (who committed suicide in 1971), and Three Studies for a Portrait, 1976, a visceral excavation of some unknown soul with disagreeably wormlike lips. The show also

  • Pier Paolo Calzolari, Untitled, 2021, salt, pigment, oil pastel, gold leaf, walnut, feather, steel, and lead on wood, 39 3⁄8 × 19 3⁄4 × 4 3⁄4".

    Pier Paolo Calzolari

    All thirty of the works in “Painting as a Butterfly”—an exhibition by Italian artist Pier Paolo Calzolari—were abstractions. Some were geometric or nearly monochromatic, while several others, such as Rideau V, 1984, a landscape-like picture suffused by a midnight blue, were gestural and full of luscious, flourishing, sensual colors. Running across the top of Rideau V is a fringe of variegated gold and crimson, from which a series of thin vertical lines descend, like delicate rain. Little blossoms of red scale these marks as an uneven band of dark yellow pierces the center of the canvas lengthwise,

  • Anne Ryan, Untitled (no. 284), ca. 1948–54, collage, 7 × 5 1⁄4".

    Anne Ryan

    Anne Ryan (1889–1954) was a novelist, a poet, a painter, and, perhaps most importantly, a collagist, although her collages are also poems, composed not of words but of exquisitely articulated shapes and colors. Ryan had her “breakthrough” in 1948, when she saw a presentation of Kurt Schwitters’s collages at New York’s Rose Fried Gallery. She saw this show the same month the German artist died—one wonders if he was reincarnated in Ryan, who was so inspired by his work that she began making collages on the same day she saw the exhibition, as we know from her daughter Elizabeth McFadden’s wonderful

  • Jean-François Millet, Le départ pour les champs (The Departure for the Fields), 1863, conté crayon on paper, 17 1⁄4 × 11 3⁄4".

    Jean-François Millet

    It is hard to believe French painter Jean-François Millet (1814–1875) was ever considered a “dangerous” artist—as Paul Delaroche, who was his teacher at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, once said—because he broke with the academy’s dictates, eschewing the history-painting tradition in favor of less grandiose subjects, such as peasant farmers and the rural landscape.

    Indeed, it was dangerous to be a realist and a humanist, to deal with the “human side of art,” as Millet himself once put it. He was radical not only for what he chose to depict, but also for his unique handling of paint. He celebrated

  • Pat Passlof, Miss Julia, 1961, oil on linen, 80 × 69".

    Pat Passlof

    Pat Passlof (1928–2011) was an important figure in the development of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. She was there from the beginning and, indeed, one of its incubators. In 1948, she studied with Willem de Kooning at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, the place to be if one wanted to become an avant-garde artist. That was also the year Arshile Gorky committed suicide; his Surrealized take on abstraction, along with that of his friend de Kooning, remained an influence on Passlof. But as “Memories of Tenth Street: Paintings by Pat Passlof, 1948–63”—a presentation at Eric

  • Matthew Brandt, Lance’s Study, 2021, photographs on glass chandelier pieces, painted metal armature, 55 1⁄2 × 21 × 21". From the series “Rooms,” 2020–.

    Matthew Brandt

    One might say that Matthew Brandt’s work is about the appropriation of nature by art, where it survives as an aesthetic trophy in a museum, gallery, or wealthy patron’s home, not unlike the stuffed head of an exotic animal. Brandt’s solo exhibition here offered up four different series of works, including “Birch,” 2019–, and “Rooms,” 2020–. The former is made up of portraits of birch trees the artist photographed around Saint Petersburg; the trees’ likenesses have been burned onto actual birch panels and treated with gold leaf. (A related series here, “Silver,” also 2017–21, features gelatin

  • Erna Rosenstein, Północ (Portret matki) (Midnight [Portrait of the Artist’s Mother]), 1979, mixed media on canvas, 26 × 20 1⁄8".

    Erna Rosenstein

    Erna Rosenstein (1913–2004) was a Polish Jew and Communist who ended up abjuring her political party when Poland fell to the Soviets after World War II. But she didn’t abandon Judaism, despite the loss of her parents, who were murdered by a bandit while her country was under Nazi occupation. Though terribly disillusioned, she never lost faith in the substantive illusions of art. She was a painter as well as a poet: A member of the avant-garde Kraków Group during the 1930s, she refused to make propagandistic socialist-realist art under Joseph Stalin’s brutal reign.

    This wide-ranging exhibition,