New York

Jack Youngerman

Betty Parsons Gallery

Jack Youngerman’s recent paintings rarely go beyond an arresting elegance. His work is large, airy, extremely handsome, but occasionally it aspires to a humanistic ethos which it cannot convincingly sustain (e.g. Elegy for a Guerilla).

Working within a familiar two-dimensional idiom whose inflections were first those of Arp and then of the much larger twentieth century collage tradition, Youngerman has further sharpened his already keen sense of the figure ground dialogue. The paint has grown thinner, the color more saturated, the brush-stroke more diagonally active, the paint fields (duplicating the surfaces of torn paper) broader, the sensitivity to contour even more alert. In short, Youngerman is exquisitely conscious of edges.

These large pictures embark from a stylization of nature. The most banal expressions of this attitude were those of the “2-D” split cabbages and apples of 1940 applied design. Youngerman stands halfway between this world of outdated innocence and the perfect pristine worlds of Kelly or Reinhardt. But so does Stuart Davis. Youngerman prolongs an American tradition in images of conventionalized roseate unfurlings (Spring) or in bichromatic geographies such as Blue and White (a white Welfare Island set into an East River of hard blue).

Despite reservations, scale, brilliance, subtlety of design and freshness are all strong arguments in Youngerman’s favor. The memory of the blinding “good looks” of Youngerman’s work stays with the viewer long after his indifference to their ingenious facility.

Robert Pincus-Witten