Max Kozloff

  • Roy Lichtenstein at the Guggenheim

    I CAN STILL REMEMBER Ivan Karp’s “take-this-if-you-dare” look, as he hauled out, face backward, a number of canvases which were to be my first Lichtensteins. How was a guileless critic to know in that distant year (1962), that he would be confronted by what was quickly to become a grand trademark of sixties art? The subjects, the identities of those pictures have passed from my mind, but not their acid shock. To drink in those images was like glugging a quart of quinine water followed by a Listerine chaser. And there was, too, the fierce disbelief that anything so brazen as these commercial

  • The Honest Elusiveness of Jim Dine

    ONE HAS NO DIFFICULTY IN LOCATING the area in which the vision of Jim Dine tumbles and spins and disports itself, like some playful dolphin. His haunt is the fluid sea of visual paradoxes and ironies discovered by Johns and Rauschenberg. This means, initially, that Dine has concerned himself with the inclusion of objects into painting, the continued opulence, but devaluation, of material paint, and the effect of words which label representations which he is at pains to undermine. Considering Dine’s origins, one is not surprised to see displacements and disassociations in his art, nor a whole

  • The Dilemma of Expressionism

    EXPRESSIONISM, AS A VISUAL MODE in art, has passed into the history of the 20th century. So complicated and ambiguous has the present artistic situation become, that the bellicose progeny of Van Gogh look optimistic and simple-minded by comparison. And so alien to the direct transmission of feeling is current thought, that Expressionist art begins to look inflated and bombastic. One is willing to admit the existence of a number of masterpieces of the genre, but inwardly one does not submit oneself too eagerly to be moved by them. If this is because Expressionism no longer constitutes fashion,

  • Meditations on a Hobby Horse

    Meditations On A Hobby Horse by E. H. Gombrich, Phaidon, London 1963: E. H. Gombrich is a remarkable art historian who has increasingly concerned himself with the reciprocal relationships between art and perception. Or more precisely, he is interested in what happens when we look at pictures and how our eyes and minds are set to work by objects which are mental and sensuous amalgams in their own right. This has led him, in his famous “Art and Illusion,” to discuss such matters as the theory of representation, the psychological conditions of sight, and the nature of visual communication. One of

  • Surrealist Painting Re-examined

    OF ALL THE DECISIVE MOMENTS in the tradition of 20th century painting, only one can be said to burrow still relevantly with in us, and to surface in ambitious works of art that show a sibling connection with the past. Cubism and Expressionism had ground down exhaustedly to an impasse during the fifties. The example of the Bauhaus today sometimes fitfully re-emerges, but then mainly in forms alien to its own pedagogy. Yet Dada, as it is almost axiomatic to say, and its rambunctious outgrowth, Surrealism, surround and confirm a swarm of present avant-garde works reflecting a confusing wealth of

  • Michael Steiner

    Debuts by young artists these days seem to fall into one of two categories. Either their exhibitions are somewhat insecure technically, and uncertain conceptually, or they are almost alarmingly with it, apparently leaving no fields left to conquer. Michael Steiner’s opening at Dwan lines up neatly with the latter extremity. Flawless even in their installation, his cast aluminum pieces project a structural confidence, and a differentiated geometrical vocabulary of mostly cantilevered or buttressed beams that go elegantly about their business. In addition, nothing could be more up to date than

  • Jim Dine

    Some hitherto disagreeable, but relatively submerged aspects of Jim Dine’s art have come fully to the surface in his latest show at Janis. I refer to his incapacity to edit (if not control) the vagrant products of his output, and also to a rather persnickety cynicism that demeans only itself. The first means that undeveloped or throw-away ideas sully a production that once had a lyrically serious drive; the second indicates a kind of thumbing the nose even at his own irony––which makes one wonder why any work was worth the effort. At their wittiest, his new images rise to the level of cast

  • Fantin-Latour

    In the catalog of the really delicious exhibition of flower paintings by Fantin-Latour at Acquavella, I came across an illuminating remark by Pierre Courthion: “In his own incomparable way, he (Fantin) has understood better than anyone the visual language of a bouquet of flowers, where each flower plays its own melody; the soft rustle of the white carnations and the red or multicolored ones which froth like the petticoats of a pretty girl . . .” To probe into these works, then, is perhaps to become a connoisseur of a genteel, Victorian eroticism. The latter would go far to explain the subdued

  • Robert Murray

    With gentle provocation and great self-assurance, Robert Murray mounted sculptures at Betty Parsons which, while they had taken their cue from David Smith, have extended his planes into thin (less than an inch), laminated metal walls that have more the function of room dividers than of pedestal pieces surrounded by measurable space.

    Upon entering, one was blocked and shunted to the side by a kind of aluminum screen painted with red oxide, there to survey judiciously placed, sharp-edged planks of metal, some vertical and connected by a balustrade at the base, others having one incisive diagonal,

  • Jules Olitski

    Those who tend to look unfavorably on the art of Jules Olitski are offended by the sweetness of his color; those who would uphold his work are wont to overlook that color, despite acknowledgement of its importance. The new paintings by Olitski at Emmerich are not likely to alter these circumstances. They are, as usual, overwhelmingly chromatic, the few changes to be noted in them being literally, if not altogether esthetically, marginal.

    When the show falls below the general level of handsome, it does so because of some misjudgment of the scale necessary to embody a color in memorable proportions.

  • Steven Urry

    To enter the Royal Marks Gallery this month is to venture into a gaggle of shimmying, shimmering metal forms that bask hugger-mugger in the gallery light, giving off as they do, an almost manic joie-de-vivre. The author of these aluminum frolics is Steven Urry, who makes one of the most accomplished debuts it has been my pleasure to witness. The nerve with which these aggregates have been joined together and then crowded environmentally upon each other, is as apparent as the levity of a sculptor who can imagine such titles as Psychedilly Rose, or Waul Phaulderawl. But if there is something

  • Philip Pearlstein

    For this reason, Philip Pearlstein’s elevation, as opposed to mere acceptance of the figure as subject, is obviously very much against the grain of contemporary artistic ambition. But the very fragmentation of his effort has something indomitably misguided about it: it compels curiosity, not by virtue of any success within his paintings (whose qualities vary considerably), but by the excessive pressure and density of a program that half knows, and is half unaware, of the odds it is facing.

    With implacable zeal, Pearlstein proposes a race of beings that are about as matter of fact, and unselfconscious

  • Cy Twombly

    Cy Twombly’s is one of the more rare instances of an American artist—Joan Mitchell’s is perhaps another—whose work continues to hold interest despite having been uprooted and transplanted to Europe about ten years ago. Its distance from its place of origin and source of information tells in an arrested development, but not so strongly as to overwhelm the authenticity of its vision. Twombly’s residence in Rome has cut him off from all that has happened in art here since the late fifties, but it has not obscured the elegance, irony, and insouciance that had earlier marked his contribution. These

  • Robert Whitman

    About the only short term conclusion one can draw from Robert Whitman’s “environment” called “Dark” at the Pace Gallery, is that the more sophisticated the technology at an artist’s disposal—in this case a thankfully harmless laser beam—the more absurdly minimal his dramatic effect. Of course, this won’t do as a generalization, but the fact remains that the thin red, self-erasing or slightly dipping ribbons of granulated light that laterally bisect the darkened chambers of the gallery are quite a come-down for the man who had earlier given us the cinematic and live action composite called Prune

  • Robert Morris

    At this writing, the third and last installment of the Morris exhibition at Castelli has not yet been mounted. The fact that the sculptor’s work is made to unfold successively rather than simultaneously in time, while it may be due to the restricted space of the gallery, is symptomatic also, of a larger program, of a definite, but bewildering intention. For one cannot see all at once the self-evident, cannot piece together the literal. This peculiar condition applies to his overall production itself, hauntingly variegated in its syntax, but never seeming eclectic or derivative in the light of

  • Helen Frankenthaler

    Hanging into and down the surfaces of Helen Frankenthaler’s new paintings are soft, sodden stretches of color, of which some titles—Cinnamon Burn, Chalk Zone—are fair indications of their sensory allusiveness. Frames are as arbitrary in their containment of masses as edges are meandering in their sometimes “cut” or blotted presence. One finds very little incident in this languid, often pastel, and occasionally bilious terrain. Some very delicate adjustments of energy and dissonance are necessary to bring off her particular suspension of forces, and these, for the most part, are lacking in this

  • Frank Kupka

    “Though it seems quite simple, Kupka’s case has its own complexity. We find in him a kind of spontaneous generation of free forms arising independently of any Futurist, Fauve, or Cubist influence, or else spurred by all these movements at one and the same time. It is amazing to see with what ease he passes from one form to another, from the simplest to the most baroque, from the arabesque with very pure lines to Symbolist turgidity.” Written by Michel Seuphor, these words sum up much of the atmosphere and perplexity of Frank Kupka, an artist who has not really been put into the historical record,

  • Joan Mitchell

    Joan Mitchell’s recent paintings at the Martha Jackson Gallery provide an instance of one of those critical hindsights, reluctantly formed, and disagreeable to contemplate. It is one thing to discover that an artist one had not been too fond of in the past reveals an unexpected solidity, enough perhaps to revise one’s previously negative estimate. It is quite another to see in present work a superficiality that retrospectively belies a long-held, and obviously not too perceptive indulgence. Such is my experience with Miss Mitchell’s new show.

    This time around, the artist, who has been living for

  • Robert Natkin

    In one of his two continuing pictorial idioms, Robert Natkin, at Poindexter, composes by means of repeated rectangular modules of jigsawed forms—bars, color grids, chromatic bubbles, and irradiated, voids—echoing each other up and down or laterally across the picture façade. Value contrasts are extreme, as is the range of the spectrum, but the total effect is dry, “ironed on,” even sometimes paper thin. A rather metallically graded series of greys or its equivalent in a harmonic registration of colors glints through the patterning in the form of intervallic registers of tone. Natkin plays with

  • Judith Dolnick

    Judith Dolnick, the painter’s wife, exhibits a group of acrylics, some of them tondos, far less problematic in their appeal. Her facility in watercolor is authentically transferred to these larger works, not as ambitious and risky as her husband’s, although they contain some of the same motifs. Her strength, a relaxed and fluent handwriting of wavy filaments and burbling clouds, is also marked by a certain weakness—the tendency, once again, to be episodic. She may compose out from the center or spot more disparately, but in either case the margins are comparatively unemployed in the ensemble,