Pepe Karmel

  • Kirk Varnedoe

    ARRIVING WITH KIRK VARNEDOE at a museum was like showing up with a rock star about to play Madison Square Garden. Bypassing the public entrance, we would enter by an inconspicuous door next to the loading dock. Kirk would announce his name, I would say mine, and the bored security guard would phone upstairs. A few minutes later the museum director would appear, slightly out of breath, greet Kirk effusively, and lead us up to the galleries or down to the storage area, where we would study the paintings arrayed on racks under fluorescent lights like sides of beef in a butcher’s freezer.

    When the

  • Adolph Gottlieb

    There’s supposed to be a moment of conversion in the careers of Abstract Expressionists. For Adolph Gottlieb, it comes in 1957, when he studies his “Imaginary Landscapes” and decides to get rid of everything except the orbs floating above the horizon, thereby arriving at the format of his landmark painting, Burst. Critics like to isolate these moments of conversion because they reduce the messy narrative of an artist’s career to one epochal discovery. In Gottlieb’s case, the great discovery lies in the perfect synthesis of Color Field painting and gestural abstraction in a single canvas.

    Fortunately,