John Yau

  • Bill Jensen

    Bill Jensen is one of the most significant painters of his generation, and his work—particularly during the late ’70s—exerted a profound influence on younger artists. Whereas the then-fashionable neo-Expressionists combined images pastiched from eclectic cultural sources with a loose painterly style, Jensen renewed the symbolist impulse that fueled the work of late American Romantics and early American Modernists such as Albert Pinkham Ryder and Marsden Hartley without resorting to parody or kitsch. He gambled that his painting would be able to absorb, transform, and revitalize what many had

  • Sean Scully

    Sean Scully attended art school in England in the early ’60s, shortly after Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland began painting stripes. While his more celebrated precursors have long since moved on, he has remained loyal to the colored band, with modest variations, ever since.

    In the late ’60s, Scully started using tightly painted vertical or horizontal stripes, and he subsequently employed painted bands both to weave spatial effects by placing one block of strips on top of another and to reassert the flatness of the picture plane. In the early ’80s, he abandoned the taped edges, and began varying

  • “Synthesis”

    Between abstract painting’s mid-’70s Minimalist crescendo and the mid ’80s, when proclamations that it had reached a dead end were rampant, abstraction, and painting in general, relinquished its status as the dominant mode of postwar American art. Instead, it became simply one option amidst a range of available artistic possibilities, none of which asserted itself with definitive urgency.

    This exhibition of 15 paintings by as many artists, provided a sampling of work by lesser-known abstractionists working today. Almost all of the artists included seemed to be looking over their shoulders,

  • Stephen Mueller

    Until recently, Stephen Mueller was an insouciant painter who combined various pictorial syntaxes—staining, geometry, and gesture—to evoke those elusive states between reflection and action, chaos and definition, which Willem de Kooning called the “slippery glimpse.” Using saccharine colors such as pink, mauve, and purple, Mueller filled the bounded stillness of his compositions with a painterly hurly-burly, making abstract works that were simultaneously seductive and off-putting, brash and funny. Mueller never felt that painting had to confront the end of history or the medium’s own

  • Eugene von Bruenchenhein

    Incised on a plaque above the kitchen door of his modest Milwaukee home, the artist’s description of himself reads: “Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Free-lance Artist, Poet and Sculptor, Inovator [sic], Arrow maker and Plant man, Bone artifacts constructor, Photographer and Architect, Philosopher.” A full-time baker by profession, Von Bruenchenhein (1910–1983) was a secretive, self-taught artist whose entire oeuvre (paintings, sculptures, photographs, music, ceramics, and poetry) was dedicated to one person, his wife Marie. Shortly after he married Marie in 1943, he began taking erotic photographs of

  • Ferran García Sevilla

    Though Ferran García Sevilla is one of Spain’s brightest artistic lights, and his paintings are well known throughout Europe, his work remains relatively obscure in America. This circumstance has less to do with Sevilla’s project than with New York’s well-documented hostility to painting during the latter half of the ’80s. We are not as curious or catholic as we pretend to be, and work which doesn’t fit prescribed agendas tends to be swiftly marginalized.

    Sevilla began his career in the ’70s as a Conceptual artist who employed photography to examine the conventions of artistic authorship, and

  • Ralph Humphrey

    Throughout his three-decade career, Ralph Humphrey (1932–1990) neither submitted to nor reacted against the agendas of successive art-world movements. Though he began exhibiting in 1958 at a moment that can be seen to mark the beginning of the art world’s turn toward Minimalism and Pop art, Humphrey never became an orthodox practitioner of either style. By the mid ’60s, however, he had abandoned the allover gestural paintings with which he inaugurated his career, and had come to be considered, along with Brice Marden, a “romantic Minimalist.” This is the closest he ever got to the mainstream;

  • Hans Hofmann

    Hans Hofmann is widely considered a central figure in the rise of American Modernism. Born in Germany, Hofmann came to America and for many years taught art and art theory to students who later gained reputations in their own rights. That Hofmann, like Josef Albers, was an important proselytizer who carried the torch from Europe and passed it on to younger artists eager to make advanced painting is undeniable; whether this is as central to the history of American art as historians and critics have argued is questionable.

    This retrospective, the first since Hofmann’s death, attempts to prove he

  • Bill Barrette

    Bill Barrette’s carefully fabricated boxlike constructions, incorporating optical devices, early photography, and found objects, suggest early cameras, which faithfully transcribed their views onto silvered glass plates. Many of Barrette’s boxes contain photographic portraits, usually derived from daguerreotypes of nameless sitters captured in uncomfortable formal poses, in which the subject looks out at the viewer looking in. Other images include a monochromatic view of an ancient city and a red-dyed, photographic image of a 19th-century painting of a town consumed by fire. The resulting

  • Jackson Pollock

    Although Jackson Pollock has been dead for more than 30 years, we still have not succeeded in packaging his contribution and delivering it up to the confines of art history. Is Pollock’s work better accommodated by Clement Greenberg’s ’50s-style art about art approach, or the autobiographical perspective Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith propose in their cumbersome 1989 biography Jackson Pollock: An American Saga? Pollock’s strongest work is simultaneously intimate and impersonal, yet we have tended to stress one aspect or the other, the romantic shaman or the formalist innovator.

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  • April Gornik

    April Gornik has stuck to the initial attitudes toward both content and style she developed when she first began exhibiting regularly in the early ’80s. Though viewers familiar with Gornik’s work may take comfort in the assurance that no sign of habitation will spoil her open landscapes—that her untrampled fields, clear skies, and dramatic natural effects will remain constant—it is difficult to know how to respond critically to the work of an artist who has neither questioned her initial premises nor strived to master her materials. For the past decade, Gornik has depicted open vistas seen from

  • Ronald Bladen

    This exhibition of forgotten paintings by a well-known but marginalized sculptor reminds us that history is capricious, that it is a complex dynamic rather than a series of static events. None of the convenient art-historical models used to designate artists or oeuvres accommodate Ronald Bladen’s five-decade career very precisely. Bladen’s subtle refusal to work in a mainstream style raises a number of important questions about the way the art world admits artists into the canon. Is, for example, the course of mainstream art the result of each generation connecting itself to official history