Critics’ Picks

Günther Uecker, Lichtbogen (Arc of Light), 2020, watercolor and tempera on canvas, 118 x 78 3/4". © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Günther Uecker, Lichtbogen (Arc of Light), 2020, watercolor and tempera on canvas, 118 x 78 3/4". © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Paris

Günther Uecker

Lévy Gorvy | Paris
4 Passage Sainte-Avoye
October 22, 2020–January 9, 2021

For the first exhibition at their new Parisian location, Lévy Gorvy has adorned the large gallery with a series of six monumental and lyrical minimalist paintings by Group Zero’s Günther Uecker—mural-like in their consistent scale and limited blue and white palette—along with an array of small watercolors. Presented here, in Uecker’s first Parisian solo show since 1968, they mark a decisive departure from the opulent, nail-studded works that have largely delineated his career. Its title, “Lichtbogen” (Arc of Light), abstractly suggests current struggles to flatten the curve during the bulging fall wave of the coronavirus. Though disappointingly disconnected from our pandemic period’s concupiscent insolence, Uecker’s soothing paintings are achingly stunning, poetically embodying a sense of cool fluidity and light that bends sore sensations toward the Mediterranean Matissean “kinda blue” tradition of voluptuous beauty.

Stained on raw canvas with a mop-like brush, Uecker’s slow curves are based on the simple watercolors he sketched after visiting the Persian Gulf’s Strait of Hormuz earlier this year. The artist describes these relaxing paintings as attempts to magically “overcome an affliction”—a statement reminiscent of Trump’s mythical assertion that we are “rounding the corner” on Covid-19. Yet given the venomous context of the coronavirus, I read his buckling stripes as paunchy modernist zips whose sad slackness strains to rise to the heights of Barnett Newman’s spiritual transcendence. Rather, this group of assiduous arches—which may also present bird’s-eye views of the Minab River—suggests a confluence between the settled past, the flowing, precarious present, and the placid but pointless future proposed by airy spiritualists.