Critics’ Picks

Dan Walsh, Days and Nights—Nights, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 4' x 20' 9" overall.

Dan Walsh, Days and Nights—Nights, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 4' x 20' 9" overall.

New York

Dan Walsh

Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street
529 W 21st Street
July 23, 2013–March 27, 2010

“The exhibition includes six to eight new paintings.” A curiously undecided announcement for a gallery press release, but perhaps forgivable in the context of an artistic approach so clear and careful that it is better discussed in terms of gradual shift than of sudden breakthrough. Working slowly through numerous variations on a few established themes, Dan Walsh remains focused on geometric abstraction but invests it with just enough humanity to keep formalist ossification at bay. So even while the artist sticks doggedly to repetition and patterning as picture-making devices, he allows a subtle but consistently discernible imperfection to infuse his art with life. Walsh’s style is at once highly systematic and ever so slightly offhand, displaying a simultaneous commitment to conceptual-minimal flawlessness and the wobbles of traditional production.

All the paintings in this exhibition, “Days and Nights,” employ brushstrokes arranged into lines, crosses, squares, and grids. Some of them have the look of fabric designs or circuit diagrams, but there is also a suggestion of improvisational doodling, of responding directly to the proportions of the canvas or simply making use of whatever paint was at hand, as if the artist were determined to finish off one color before moving on to the next. Walsh likes to employ simple layering and translucent effects, allowing his materials to retain their unique properties while bending them to his own project. In several of the works, these techniques give rise to pleasing optical effects; in others, they simply are what they are. And in the multipanel work for which the show is named, they simply chart a painter’s progress.