PRINT December 1966

New Work by Friedel Dzubas

SINCE HIS APPEARANCE IN Clement Greenberg’s Post Painterly Abstraction exhibition in 1964 Friedel Dzubas, in a one-man show at Nicholas Wilder Gallery, has changed rather remarkably. Dzubas has not simply entrenched or even extended his style, but has revived and consolidated a number of pictorial concepts of forty or more years ago.

Dzubas presents a variety of formats: a large upright rectangle reserved for tallish ovoids packed at the right side, extremely long rectangles, and banded rectangles with an alternate position of either vertical or horizontal. The first are appropriate reminders of Dzubas’s participation in the purely painterly absolutes of the New York school. The last group, when vertical, relate immediately to a comfortable, one-to-one viewer scale (70“ × 20”), but when turned on their side assume an overwhelming (and intended) landscape reference. This left-right span, with its associative subject matter (usually complete with horizon line) would seem a conscious rechercher direction, but presented as an alternate reading suggests an evasion of the basic critical issue of figuration.

His space is at best amorphous. This, when the most serious painting consistently activates a flat plane, implies an attitude of playfulness or renunciation. The spatial considerations are those of a half century ago—the collage-like overlapped ambiguity of Synthetic Cubism. His forms and colors follow suit. These changes are due only in part to his move from dense oil paint on an unpainted ground to a full surface covering of (most often) transparent Magna and turpentine.

Drawn and filled in, his clearly premeditated and packed compositions are related to the symbolic abstractions of Dove and the cropped views of O’Keeffe in their pure refinement, alternating between near symmetry or extreme asymmetrical placement. They suggest a dose of upbeat “hard edge” interpreted before a natural vista. Echoes of Jawlensky and Ivon Hitchens reverberate somewhere at the Expressionist core of these designs. The most individual quality is his dedication to enframing devices articulating the edge of the rectangles, as well as slender wedges between shapes ostensibly condensing masses but supplying also dimensionality. Crisp and slightly buoyant, the contours undulate with a slow equalizing quiver.

The color choices have an historical precedent as well as wide and familiar current usage. The selections are a late Cubist color run (continued by Miro into the late 1930s) from engaging bright tints, through fully vibrant middle key saturations, to a few select sober darks. It is a scheme allowing maximum non-referential maneuverability; color orchestrated, balanced to full value and qualities of temperature. While Dzubas is indulgent in his wide ranges, or obvious in analogous-versus-complementary contrast, such colors in the hands of Olitski (of the early sixties) were daringly coy and mocking, in those of Louis engagingly assertive or mysterious. Noland’s use has been vibrant, factual and individual; even Gene Davis’s results are gratifyingly optical. This same range in Dzubas’s works appears refreshing, light, safe, even decorative.

Fidel A. Danieli