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Painting Becomes Cyclorama

IN HER WHITNEY MUSEUM exhibition Joan Mitchell has included a small, rather simple painting called Plage. Two separate canvases, each about 75 inches square, are butted together side by side and bound by a single frame. On the left-hand canvas are five swathes of painting, each a different color, applied by the flat pressure of a broad brush: three filling the top half with vertical slats of dark green, blue, and pale lavender; the other two aligning themselves horizontally along the bottom edge. On the right panel, the paint marks ice the lower half of the field with thick encrustations—the drag of color through color reporting the erratic but primarily circular gesture of the hand that gauged and knifed the swirls of pigment.

As the title announces, the painting is a landscape. Under a sky of leaden primer, surf rolls leftward toward the physical shoreline that rifts the two panels of

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