Critics’ Picks

Lee Krasner, Kufic, 1965, oil on canvas, 6’ 9” x 10’ 8”.

Lee Krasner, Kufic, 1965, oil on canvas, 6’ 9” x 10’ 8”.

New York

Lee Krasner

Robert Miller Gallery
(Currently Relocating)
November 19, 2010–January 29, 2011

Painted partly in her New York studio and partly in the barn at the Springs, this selection of Lee Krasner’s work veers from diffident, quasi-pictorial experiments (tellingly signed, in one instance, “L.K.”) to some assertive displays of real virtuosity. A number of 1950s gouaches bear the influence of Gorky and Pollock yet reveal a sensibility that Krasner would often take to her own, successful ends. Those ends are exemplified in Moontide, 1961, a large, horizontal canvas of maroon, black, yellow-green, and white. If the composition still bears a certain indebtedness to post-Cubist pictorial space—its shards by turns interwoven and pulling apart, fractured into a flattened, even surface—the paint here reveals an autonomous energy, one that calls attention to whirls and eddies and the surface itself.

A painting of thick mustard lines against an unprimed canvas, Kufic, 1965, presumably alludes with its title to the work’s loopy, calligraphic evocations. The transparency and spareness of this painting contrast notably with slightly earlier pictures such as Bird Image and Flowering Limb, both 1963, which pack in a range of pigments via densely knit brushwork. The organic allusions of the paintings’ titles underscore the pullulation of their surfaces and textures—quite different from the more aerated and relaxed skeins of Kufic. A few of the other works in the exhibition are hit-or-miss. The line in Messenger, 1959, falls provocatively in and out of step with corporeal connotations, now curling into a profile or eyes, now unraveling to shrug off the yoke of signification. By contrast, Vigil and Seeded, both 1960, appear too charged; their vacillation in and out of representation and corporeality appears somewhat more ham-fisted, the works too earnest in their ambition. That freighted feel is underscored by the comparatively fresh insouciance and confidence of Krasner’s abstraction at its best.