New York

Donald Kaufman

Feigen Gallery

The group of Donald Kaufman’s canvases exhibited at the Feigen Gallery is a fine record of the artist’s maturing and increasingly refined sensibility. His paintings possess a quietly pleasing and non-assertive authority, whether they span an entire wall, or are reduced to a thin horizontal bar. The interlocking rectangles which make up his compositions are colored with muted tones, variations on grey and white, with some earlier experiments in more brilliant, intense colors. Kaufman aims to work with hues that are as closely valued as possible, without getting into the area of the “invisible” (such as the late Ad Reinhardt’s blue and red series of the early ’50s).

Country Life Press, the largest work shown, is a gentle accord of whites, creme-beige and fawn grey, radiating a kind of warmth and infiniteness, despite the austerity of its coloring and the studied balance of its form blocks. In most of the more recent paintings, the mauve or cool blue-greys activate the surface with shallow receding, advancing, or expanding movements, always very slight; but the stair-like arrangements too often tend towards the static, especially around the edges and corners of the canvas. This weighty boxiness in the geometry sometimes impedes the limitless effects for which Kaufman seems to be working in terms of color and scale.

La Grange, a thin, lime-iced panel, and Oakpark, a rosy horizontal bar, reveal a less tempered use of color, and are perhaps overly confectionary when seen alongside the pale tinted works done in a larger, more rectangular format. Hinsdale, too, is an ambitious trial, which is eclipsed by the apparently more conservative, yet balanced precision of Bellmore or Garden City. Its deliberately acid, unattractive chrome and mustard yellows somewhat overpower and blunt one’s apprehension of the subtleties in the geometrical structure. While this painting, like La Grange and Oakpark, offsets the greyed tonalities of paintings such as Floral Park or Bellmore by sheer chromatic intensity, it seems that a cautious and neutral palette is Kaufman’s area of successful accomplishment. The overall impression is that Kaufman is not a revolutionary talent, working as he is within carefully defined limits, but the implications of future progress are not lacking.

Emily Wasserman