Donald Kuspit

  • Hans Hofmann, The Conjurer (Small Version), 1946, oil on panel, 25 × 30".

    Hans Hofmann

    In 1903, Hans Hofmann (1880–1966) moved from Munich to Paris, where he saw the influential Paul Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in 1907, worked with Henri Matisse, and became friends with Georges Braque, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, and Pablo Picasso, eventually fusing Fauvism and Cubism to new effect, and later adding Wassily Kandinsky to the influential mix. Though he was present at the birth of abstract painting in the early twentieth century, he was not one of its midwives, but rather a synthesizer of their ideas, opening what is generally regarded as the first school of modern

  • Gerald Slota, Untitled (Pegboard), 2018, digital C-print, 44 × 37 1⁄2".

    Gerald Slota

    If one didn’t know that the ten digital C-prints in this exhibition were dedicated to Gerald Slota’s dead father, one would have thought they were merely surreal. The eccentric, collage-like compositions featured timeworn items from his late parent’s home (crusty wallpaper, shabby kitchen tiles, a misshapen pegboard) in sensational colors (electric yellows, lurid greens, lambent blues). The pieces were strangely abstract—the pegboard, for instance, became a Color Field painting, the bit of wire dangling from it an expressive gesture. The images had a certain naive and clumsy charm, a quality we

  • Ilya Bolotowsky, Small Biomorph, ca. 1935, oil on board, 12 x 15 1/2".

    Ilya Bolotowsky

    In 1936, the painter Ilya Bolotowsky (1907–1981) cofounded American Abstract Artists, an organization instrumental to the advancement of European abstraction at a time when the form was “met with strong critical resistance” (according to the AAA) in the face of the then-dominant regionalism of artists such as Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. The Washburn Gallery’s presentation of Bolotowsky’s work, a selection of eight paintings created between 1935 and 1980, showed us an artist who was a staunch believer in the experimentalism and ideals of modernism, as well as a master of both the geometric

  • Jim Dine, Late Last Summer, the Rue Madame, 2015, acrylic and sand on wood, 79 7⁄8 × 60 5⁄8". From the series “The Black Paintings,” 2015.

    Jim Dine

    Pop art provocateur Jim Dine is renowned for humorous works such as The Technicolor Heart (The Big One), 2004—an outdoor sculpture of the titular organ rendered in a queasy blue and embedded with sundry things (including hammers, hatchets, and hands) in a rainbow of colors—and Walking to Bora˚s, 2008, a Brobdingnagian outdoor statue of Pinocchio, located in Sweden. But in 2010, the artist suddenly changed course and began making abstractions. The “Black Paintings” series, 2015, which were on view at Richard Gray Gallery, came out of this shift. As Dine has declared, the images are

  • Rackstraw Downes, Outdoor Passageway at 15 Rivington, 2016, oil on canvas, 29 × 12".

    Rackstraw Downes

    “If something is real to you,” as the realist painter Rackstraw Downes writes—suggesting that things aren’t real until they are personally real—then the question is not, “What is this phenomenon I’m perceiving?,” as he says, but, “Why is this phenomenon real to me?” Or, how is something important enough to catch the eye and engage the mind? What is the motive, conscious or unconscious, that led Downes to paint what he painted here? We can understand why he chose to depict his studio, a sort of self-protecting inner sanctum eloquently realized in a trio of paintings: Skylit Loftspace, NYC (seated)

  • Jörg Immendorff, Gestatten. Mein Name ist Geschichte! (Permit Me, My Name Is History!), 2005, oil on canvas, 59 × 51 1⁄4". From “Vile Bodies.”

    “Vile Bodies”

    The bodies in this group exhibition may have been vile—they certainly weren’t classically ideal—but they were absolutely distinctive. “Vile Bodies,” which extended to the gallery’s London branch, was full of various stylistic persuasions. Take, for instance, the linear clarity of Lucio Fontana’s drawing Nudo (Nude), ca. 1956–59; the bawdiness of Joseph Beuys’s sketch Josephine, 1954; or the expressionistic zeal of Don Van Vliet’s gouache on paper Untitled (Woman), 1986. Yet its major through line, as the title of the exhibition made clear, was a roiling contempt for the human form.

  • Oliver Lee Jackson, Composite, 2012, intaglio print and mixed media on paper, 40 1⁄4 × 28 7⁄8".

    Oliver Lee Jackson

    An eclectic mix of paintings and sculptures by Oliver Lee Jackson was exhibited at Burning in Water. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, know that the octogenarian artist has a rich past: Among other things, he founded in 1971 the African Continuum arts organization, a body dedicated to the support and advancement of black thinking and culture, and from 1968 to 1972 he collaborated with Saint Louis’s cross-disciplinary Black Artists Group (or BAG), befriending and working with the avant-garde jazz musician Julius Hemphill. Jackson’s show was a modest sampling from a lifetime of production by an

  • View of “Ed Moses,” 2018. From left: Crumel, 2004; Ignon, 2006. Photo: Casey Kelbaugh.

    Ed Moses

    Ed Moses’s miniretrospective at Albertz Benda, which featured a dozen of the artist’s canvases, was also a memorial to his stunning achievements. The earliest, Peeleb, was made in 1998; the most recent, Krak-BLK, 2014, was created only four years before his death this year, at the age of ninety-one. The paintings testified to his versatility and endlessly exploratory creativity. He was an action painter, as he acknowledged—but there were few action painters who were as “open to change,” to quote his friend Frank Gehry. Moses called himself the Mutator, implying that his art was in a constant

  • Erwin Blumenfeld, Vogue Paris, Eiffel Tower, May 1939, gelatin silver print, 11 3/8 x 8 3/4". © The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld.

    Erwin Blumenfeld

    Vogue Paris, Eiffel Tower, May 1939 is Erwin Blumenfeld’s most famous fashion photograph. After moving to New York in 1941 to escape the Nazis, the German-born photographer contributed extensively, and for decades, to an international array of Condé Nast publications including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. The model in the aforementioned image, dressed in a glorious white gown billowing like the wings of an angel or a dove, evokes the famous Hellenistic sculpture Winged Victory of Samothrace, which resides on a staircase in the Louvre in Paris. Blumenfeld’s female figure reflects a singular historical

  • Michael Goldberg, Knossos, 2007, oil stick and oil on canvas, 81 1/2 x 74".

    Michael Goldberg

    This exhibition brought together paintings that Michael Goldberg made in the 1950s, at the beginning his career (he was born in 1924) and in the 2000s, near the end of his life (he died in 2007). The juxtaposition of his earliest and latest works indicate that the artist never really veered off course; he remained consistently concerned with the “physicality” of paint, which he liked to “push . . . around hard.” The “apparently haphazard composition, the hostile, indifferent surfaces” of his paintings, give the “impression . . . of being fragments of a vast, continuing process beyond [his]

  • Wayne Thiebaud, Ripley Ridge, 1977, oil on linen, 48 x 36". © Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA, New York.

    Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud

    This exhibition contained twenty-four paintings—nine by Richard Diebenkorn and fifteen by Wayne Thiebaud (the two were lifelong friends)—all ostensibly engaging particular places in California. Berkeley appeared in four of Diebenkorn’s works (Berkeley #21, 1954; Berkeley #39 and Berkeley #44, both 1955; and Driveway, 1956), as did Ocean Park, an area of Santa Monica (Ocean Park #40, 1971). But, as Thiebaud’s nameless places, among them Urban Freeways, 1979, and Fields and Furrows, 2002, made clear, these images could be almost anywhere that there are big cities and rural areas. The

  • André Cepeda, Untitled E0014, São Paulo, 2015, ink-jet print, 19 5/8 x 25 1/2".

    André Cepeda

    Portuguese photographer André Cepeda offered us two groups—and kinds—of photographs, nearly all untitled (but numbered) and all, in their different ways, more or less detached musings on aspects of his native country (his hometown, Porto, and São Paulo in Brazil, once a part of Portugal’s colonial empire). The color photographs of the latter, made in 2012, have a conventional clarity and obviousness; the former, mostly colorless photographs made in 2015, are more mysterious. The former feel self-conscious; the latter seem to spring directly from the unconscious. The muted light in