Critics’ Picks

Untitled, 1962.

Untitled, 1962.


Robert Ryman

Dallas Museum of Art
1717 North Harwood
December 18, 2005–April 2, 2006

This smart survey of Robert Ryman’s oeuvre, the most extensive since MoMA’s 1993 retrospective, features four never before exhibited works from Ryman’s own collection and reveals an unexplored side to this endlessly inquisitive artist. Curator Charles Wylie coaxed Ryman into loaning the four untitled five-foot-square acrylic on aluminum panels, made in 1963 and 1964, and gives them prominent placement in the museum’s cavernous Barrel Vault Gallery. Each features Ryman’s signature dense passages of wriggling white squiggles, but his buffing and sanding of the portions of the exposed aluminum surfaces—à la David Smith—is the revelation, particularly since the results prefigure the painted surfaces of later works on display. The rest of Ryman’s characteristically square white paintings are installed achronologically in the adjacent square white Quadrant Galleries, where Ryman assisted Wylie with the installation and is responsible for the lighting. The result is a sequence of ascetic, contemplative environments in which to ponder issues of change and continuity in Ryman’s explorations of luminosity, surface texture, paint density, and contrasts of materiality. Down the hall, another room holds thirty-eight recent relief prints that feature—surprise!—a lot of color. While color peeks from behind the white brushwork in many Ryman paintings, it predominates in these works. To contextualize Ryman, Wylie has provided a fitting coda by installing paintings by Pollock, Motherwell, Kline, and Rothko in a neighboring gallery.