PRINT May 1988

James Bishop: Remembering How to See

IN RECENT SEASONS, JAMES BISHOP has painted on smallish pieces of paper, usually eight inches by ten, though he sometimes works on a sheet eight inches square. Never does the image look squared away: faint blues and luminous grays arrange themselves to suggest architectural ascension, a structured upwardness. Pencil lines reinforce these suggestions with stepped and peaked forms—terse hieroglyphs for house or tower. This vertical tendency (for it refuses to become a definite policy) is new in Bishop’s art. From the late ’60s to the early ’80s he built nearly all his images from the halves and quarters of square surfaces. The symmetry tempts one to call him a Minimalist, but the label doesn’t stick. Minimalists sublimate evidence of process, converting it to data; though elusive and sometimes fading to invisibility, the traces of Bishop’s hand preserve their charge of personal meaning. A

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