New York

John Hoyland

Elkon Gallery

John Hoyland is a young Englishman exhibiting here for the first time who gives one pause to worry about what appears to be the growing academism in stained field painting. In Hoyland’s case, the heritage of Morris Louis’s long glowing neon stripes is especially sensible. That Hoyland has successfully integrated this heritage into his vocabulary (as have, it must be admitted, so many others) is also a measurement of the painterly scholasticism that it has become. Despite these grave reservations, Hoyland does bring a modest personal dash to the legacy, a flavor that smacks oddly of Hans Hofmann—as if that master were suddenly drained, not of color, but of body.

Hoyland begins with a vast canvas. After brewing up thin washes of gelatin-colored acrylics he lays in large moist rectangles in simple vertical and horizontal coordinates, slim columns of color in the vertical leftover reaches, and intuitively divided horizontal courses. These thin grounds are worked quite wet (the titles of the work merely indicate the day they were executed) and are shifted during the painting which causes long messy and blurred rectangle edges often flooding upwards. Too frequently, the device suggests Rothko. Hoyland may be aiming at a fixed image—two wide rectangles set laterally one next to the other and separated by a thin channel. In the more interesting pictures this channel is poured on in hot reds and oranges which surge forward from the recessively horizontal figures which are often colored deep green or rodent-like greys and browns. In the end, the washing-in of color appears too indifferent, the rectangular orders too arbitrary, and if the Jello flavors momentarily satiate, they little nourish the mind or the appetite.

Robert Pincus-Witten