Jerrold Lanes

  • Richard Diebenkorn: Cloudy Skies over Ocean Park

    THE RECENT ABSTRACTIONS THAT Richard Diebenkorn showed at Marlborough are far from outstanding, and if you had expected much from them you would have had to find them disappointing, but they were worth seeing and thinking about all the same. As things go today, Diebenkorn is a curious phenomenon—an artist who has made the big time in spite of the fact that he has never tried to make the “scene.” He is, on the contrary, intentionally provincial and, insofar as his work depends for its substance on the place where he lives, he is even a regional artist as they were in the ’30s. What is perhaps

  • Piet Mondrian

    There have been two worthwhile fin de siècle shows. At Noah Goldowsky it was a group of early works by Piet Mondrian. Some of them were shown in New York many years ago by Allan Frumkin and Sidney Janis, and to me they do not seem to have worn well. I mean physically: the colors seem altered and more dead and the surfaces more cracked. This is important, because their sensuousness is an integral part of the content of these canvases, as it is a strong element in Mondrian generally, and not just in his early work—the whites of his abstractions are increasingly richly brushed. It is not necessary

  • Paula Modersohn-Becker

    Much less familiar was a group of things by Paula Modersohn-Becker at La Boétie, consisting of some drawings, a couple of paintings, and all the etchings (twenty-odd) that she is known to have done. Modersohn-Becker died in 1907 at the age of 31 in Worpswede, one of the many colonies that sprang up as a result of the stimulus of the arts and crafts movement and that seem very actual in a day of communes, natural foods, and love instead of war; her entry into the annals of history probably came about through her friendship with Clara Westhoff, the wife of Rilke, who for a time also lived at

  • John Singer Sargent

    The Met had a show of drawings and watercolors by John Singer Sargent that deserved a visit, although it wasn’t very good. Those who read my article last month on painting in Boston about the turn of the century will have understood that I have an intense interest in that period and a fondness for Sargent. I think that, in addition to being a good painter, he was an interesting personality and a far more complex one than he is usually thought to have been. But it’s hard to see what he thought he was doing in his watercolors, and to tell the truth I have scarcely ever seen a good one. Part of

  • Alex Katz

    At Fischbach, Alex Katz showed two cutouts, Rush and Wedding. It may be that Katz is not as bad as I think he is; let’s just say that his work is very simple. And in the cutout he has found a medium that suits his perky, flat physiognomies much better than canvas, in that it accords very well with the absence of psychological depth that is their most striking characteristic. More especially, since turning to cutouts Katz has developed, very logically, a physical depth in its place: in Rush, rows of faces are aligned on all four walls of one of the galleries, that is, in a real space; in Wedding

  • Boston Painting 1880-1930

    THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS in Boston has had a show of Boston painters of about the turn of the century, which was interesting on several counts. One, of course, was local: one learns a great deal about an important period in the past of a city to which one may be attached, as I certainly am—and not such a remote past either, since most of these painters did not die until about 1940 or later. But the fact is that even today Boston is not just another city, and at the time represented by the show it was only a decade or two beyond its finest period since Colonial times: this was the world of Mrs.

  • Problems of Representation

    WILLIAM BAILEY’S NEW WORK is basically not different from what he showed in his last exhibition—it’s just better, and I was looking forward to discussing it. Now that the moment is at hand I see that I am not the right person for the job: there is simply too much in it that I don’t understand. I see, for example, that placement is very important in Bailey’s work. Without an extreme attentiveness to positioning, he would never be able to achieve the stasis that he gets; but I can’t make any sense out of the spatial intervals I find in his paintings, if in fact they do make sense. I don’t see how

  • Neglected Nineteenth Century

    When I reviewed the first installment of the Shickman Gallery’s the Neglected Nineteenth Century, I tried to make two general points. The first was that these artists are not really “neglected” any longer. The second was that the dichotomy that is usually posited, and that the show perpetuated, between academics on the one hand and modernists on the other, is untenable in the face of the facts, whether the facts are taken to be the paintings themselves or the professional activity of the artists when they were not painting. This second exhibition of similar material, which is on the whole not

  • Brassaï

    The Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, continuing its attentiveness to photography, has had a survey of the work of Brassaï. Brassaï’s problem was that of all the successors to Degas, whose work, in spite of its medium, represents in epitome what can be called the photographic esthetic—to try to reconcile a flat pattern with deep, or at least plastic, space. Only occasionally, as in the Marchand de journaux of 1947, does Brassaï succeed, and since so many other photographers were able to do this perfectly well, the question is why? I think the reason is that Brassaï’s idea of lighting, and consequently

  • George L. K. Morris

    The retrospective of George L. K. Morris was worthwhile, even though the work was not very good. Morris’ paintings are typical of so much American painting of a somewhat earlier generation, the generation of Dove and Joseph Stella, in being cerebral and emotive in almost equal measure—in which respect they are truly a kind of Abstract Expressionism. It may be my temperament, not Morris’, but I think it is the emotivity that keeps the work from being better than it is. After all, Morris is an intelligent painter, and in addition the abstract models to which he looks are both homogeneous as a

  • Richard Lindner

    The watercolors by Richard Lindner are not up to this artist’s best level, but they mark another step in the recovery of his work. Until about the mid-’50s, Lindner had achieved some remarkable things, which fused the deep space necessary to basically figurative erotic images with a flatness and schematism of design that translated in fascinating manner the fixated quality of that eroticism and the rigidity of the conscience that repressed it. They were also beginning to combine the eroticism, which until then had been highly personal, with images of a more public nature, into which the artist

  • Walker Evans: Image as Process and as Subject

    ANYONE WHO COULD SEE the two shows of photographs by Walker Evans, at the Museum of Modern Art and the Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, was very lucky. Evans is in still photography what Dreyer is in motion pictures, an exemplary artist: which is to say that he realized the possibilities of the medium in which he was working so profoundly and in his production espoused them so closely that, up to a point, his work is of the essence of its medium. I suppose this would amount to saying that in him “the medium is the message,” but the “medium” involves the way in which subjects can or should be treated

  • Mel Ramos, Richard Hunt, Ralston Crawford, Max Weber, Ingres in Rome

    At the risk of myself ending my meteoric career, I have to say that I was not at all put off by the recent work of MEL RAMOS The paintings consist of nude pin-ups, with more or less the contours they used to have in the drawings of Petty and Varga, juxtaposed with some animal (usually hideous) against a ground whose flatness is often accentuated by a border. The girls’ postures are sometimes provocative, but the work is certainly not exciting enough to be called erotic, at least not by my definition of the word—it’s just sexy; but there’s nothing wrong with that.

    It will seem crazy, but I thought

  • Whistler and His World

    The show, “Whistler and his World,” is an inconclusive one, as it would have had to be. In the whole of art history there cannot have been a more complex period than the last third of the 19th century, principally because, as I have tried to suggest several times before, the revivalism and historical syncretism that had taken on such a central function in both style and subject matter in the later 18th century, and had never really died out, even in important painting, resurfaced in even more virulent form in the later 19th century. And because it is characteristic of an historicist approach

  • Henri Laurens

    It was a very fine idea of the New York Cultural Center to hold a retrospective of the work of Henri Laurens, but to tell the truth, it wasn’t an especially good representation ofhis output. I know this is an oddity, since what the show consisted of was the donation of the Laurens estate to the French government, but there it is. At any rate the show afforded an entirely adequate chance to review what Laurens did—for the first time, I believe, in this country—and that made it very welcome. Laurens was not by any means a great sculptor, but he was intelligent, sensitive, and serious; and since,

  • Sanford Gifford

    One by one the American painters of the 19th century are being given a play. No doubt the pressures of the market are partly responsible for this, but only partly: in every field of art, secondary figures are being studied as those of the first rank seem, from so much acquaintance, to have less to offer. Personally, I think this is an excellent development one learns about 16th-century Roman painting not only from Raphael, but also from Perino and Polidoro, let’s say. I also have come to think that one measure of the quality of an artistic tradition, style, school or approach is its ability to

  • Antoine Bourdelle

    It was an excellent idea to hold a show of work by Antoine Bourdelle, and better still to place the emphasis in it on his output during the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th—after that, Bourdelle’s energies were largely taken up with huge monumental commissions of an official,not merely a public nature, and this meant that they could not be problematic works: whatever problems they might have occasioned were inevitably decided in advance by the nature of an official commission. It was requisite that they perpetuate certain values as it were unthinkingly, and while

  • Turku Trajan

    The range of subjects in Turku Trajan’s work and their emotional and ideological weight are much the same as in Bourdelle’s—Trajan’s work embodies the great themes of earlier Western sculpture in such vehicles as the nude human figure, the heroic horse and biblical and mythological typology. But Trajan didn’t die until 1957 and he was working in New York, and those are very big differences. They meant that, while Trajan’s approach to form and theme was basically a traditional one and involved the largeness of scope that comes from the identity of values of the artist and his public, his situation

  • Wifredo Lam

    I’m just old enough to know I remember it correctly: there was a time when Wifredo Lam was considered an important painter. It was when Matta was, too. Surrealismhad succeeded Cubism as the dominant art movement in France, and candidates were needed to succeed Arp, Ernst and Tanguy as its leaders; Breton apostrophized Lam, and he became one of them. Lam’s themes are taken from a lot of work of the early thirties, such as Giacometti’s and Brauner’s, but he renders his motifs very differently: with a flat desiccation that comes from Analytical Cubism. Yet these flat shapes are put in the deep

  • Man Ray

    The survey of photographs by Man Ray is worth mentioning, although I don’t have anything to say about it. Ray’s work has always been a hodgepodge of styles, and his photos are no exception. Those in the present show fall into three principal groups. The early ones, mostly portraits, are straightforwardly naturalistic. At the other extreme are the rayographs, which in this show have a markedly Suprematist character and are in any case very abstract. The link between these two groups is provided by a small group of solarization photos, in which rational or naturalistic connections between elements