Joseph Masheck

  • Mary Frank

    Mary Frank, whose terra-cotta figural sculptures seem increasingly well known, showed several large figures of women and a copious array of small pieces. The large-scale figure sculptures, almost all of women reclining, have for me a decidedly academic kind of body-posing, right out of the draped-model tradition. True, the traditional (and perhaps masculine?) idea of monumentality, by which mass consists in the emphatic containment of power, is done without completely. What we have in its place is something so equally light as to seem its Oriental, rather than its “feminine” equivalent. Even

  • Rudolf Baranik

    Rudolf Baranik was painting in the heyday of the New York School, in the mid-1950s, both in Paris and then in New York. In his paintings cellular clusters of light, some containing obscured photographic fragments showing body parts, are softened and made vague by a characteristic sfumato. In each work such a configuration is enclosed between void black fields as dense as lampblack, with the thick, mossy blackness of early mezzotints. There is really only one mood here, a depression that is more persistent than chronic. This is, in its own way, the reverse of sentimentality, and yet it is related

  • Karl Gerstner

    Karl Gerstner’s art is the kind of thing that comes to my mind when I think of the demise of European painting. He showed a long, open-ended series of recent paintings under the general rubric “The Precision of Sensation.” Each is a square in which thin, receding layers step “down” “into” the painting. The steps form a kind of staircase, with one changing spectral color system in the same layers along the left and right sides meeting another equally gradated spectral sequence, of a different color, along the “landing” of a T-shape, and then descending down a single center “flight.” Largely in

  • Embalmed Objects: Design at the Modern

    How can we bear to use, how can we enjoy some- thing which has been a pain and a grief for the maker to make?

    —William Morris

    We . . . have fewer servants. . . .

    —Arthur Drexler

    WHEN THE MUSEUM OF Modern Art was founded in 1929 Alfred Barr suggested that there be a ranking department of architecture and design. The intent was “that standards be defined and history written for architecture and design just as for painting and sculpture.”1 The collection devoted to design was conceived as consisting mainly of actual “mass-produced useful objects made to serve a specific purpose,” and accessions were

  • Al Held: Two Views

    Joseph Masheck’s comments are in Roman type and Robert Pincus-Witten’s in italics.

    BY THE END OF THE 1950s, the main interest of American art was the peaking of Abstract Expressionism, resulting as much from the accomplishment of the older generation of artists as from the doubts of individual younger painters as to what to do next. What is so remarkable about the time is that so much of the newer transitional material proves, in turn, so fecund for painting to the present. Basically, two pots were cooking: a new type of New York painting and a new involvement with Paris. The importance of painting

  • Mondrian the New Yorker

    MONDRIAN’S FIRST NEW YORK PAINTING, New York, 1941–42, is part of a group of three city paintings belonging to the last part of his classic phase. The others are Place de la Concorde,1 1938–43, and Trafalgar Square, 1939–43. It was appropriately De Stijl for Mondrian to be concerned with urban squares—as much for their visible social design as for the relation between their plane-geometric flatness of plan and their essentially volumetric character. Begun in 1938 in Paris, in 1939 in London, and in 1941 in New York, all three paintings were finished in New York—New York first, in 1942, and the

  • Robert Grosvenor’s Fractured Beams

    DEALING WITH SIMPLE, LARGE-SCALE, solid, geometric forms while purging implications both of the monolith and of the hollow, mock-up Minimal phantasm, is setting oneself a task. Attempting, further, to retain tectonic density while avoiding the fuss of Constructivist composing, tests the possibility of a highly reductive sculpture that still involves doing something to material, and producing a static, affirmative object. Robert Grosvenor’s wood sculptures of the last few years handle such issues admirably.

    Even when Grosvenor’s shaped-up, squared-away work was Minimal, its inventive forms seemed

  • The Imagism of Magritte

    THE RECENT EXHIBITION OF BELGIAN Symbolists and Surrealists at The New York Cultural Center furnished an opportunity to consider the specifically visual imagery of René Magritte as well as the literary aspect of his art. The Prisoner, 1926, is remarkably abstract, even Arplike, in its gently molten forms. At the other extreme, The Menaced Assassin, from the same year, is fully pictorial and consistently narrative. The Menaced Assassin even suggests Hitchcock as an exercise in guilt and paranoia; by now it is unnecessary to spell out why Magritte’s evocation of that oppressive frame of mind is

  • Chris Wilmarth

    Chris Wilmarth’s recent hanging sculptures and studies on paper allow a categorical interest in the properties of materials to sustain an assertively painterly but not extrinsic surface handling. The four sculptures shown recently are reliefs, somewhere between freestanding independence and an altogether wall-bound planarity. If they relate more closely to the plane of the wall than to that of the floor, they nevertheless do so against a formidable gravitational pull. Further, they break down categorically into those which lay a square plate of glass over a square metal plate versus those which

  • “Seven Americans”

    A small but impressive show called “Seven Americans,” partly reconstructing an exhibition put together by Stieglitz at the Anderson Galleries in 1925, included works by Demuth, Dove, Hartley, Marin, O'Keefe, Stieglitz, and Paul Strand. For Hartley’s part there was a massive, energetic work called Landscape, New Mexico, from about 1918, together with a significant if less gripping study for it. Hartley, we always have to remember, is more than something like a German Expressionist: by 1918 he had shown with the Blaue Reiter and had a one-man show in Berlin. The strength and directness of technique

  • “Paintings Of The Thirties”

    “Paintings of the Thirties” was a kind of class reunion in which pictures that had been originally shown in the Midtown Galleries during that decade returned to celebrate the gallery’s 42nd anniversary. If there was a unifying rubric for the artists themselves it looks like a social urgency that only got regionalistic in order to exercise its deeper and more general populism. The most interesting artists seen here were Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, and William C. Palmer.

    I had not before realized the pains to which Bishop must have gone to produce her distinct Old Masterism of facture (even though

  • A Humanist Geometry

    ROBERT MANGOLD HAS WORKED QUIETLY and steadily over the last decade toward a reductive but confident kind of painting, as though moved by constructive doubt. Early in the 1960s Mangold painted flat, hieroglyphic works like Red October, 1962, with firmly curving forms in black, white, and gray, set smartly against an uninflected ketsup-colored ground. A couple of years later came Mangold’s Walls, those literally architectural reliefs in which colorism retracted in favor of a play of real light and cast shade, over forms whose shapes and proportions were as innately abstract as those of a building.