New York

Friedel Dzubas

Andre Emmerich Gallery

The formats of Friedel Dzubas’s new paintings are long on horizon and short on height. In Fare and Forgetmenot, for example, they run 240 inches by 19 inches. The eccentric format is a false clue, a rapidly debased tip-off which confirms the accomplished felicities of Dzubas’s pictorial turns of phrase. These new paintings reveal more of the painter’s decorousness than his esthetic contentiousness. They are neither successful in terms of engulfment (though they relate to this notion) nor do they successfully strive towards pure objectivity (as exemplified by the fixated work of, say, Pat Johanson or recent Noland) though the format is an egregious appeal to be classified as part of this exploration.

The unquestionable elegance of Dzubas’s work—sustained by a color marked by Darby Bannard’s pacific Kern-tones and a collagist’s fine feel for automatically profiled elliptical rectangles—keeps his recent paintings within familiar boundaries, scroll painting particularly. The differences are vital. Dzubas new paintings insist on an inch by inch delectation as one peruses the surface. He aims (perhaps unknowingly) at an object of connoisseurship. In more tough-minded contemporary usage delectation is far superseded by issues such as holism. Extremes of format tend to render the term meaningless. Can, for example, a ribbon of surface still be referred to properly as format? Hardly, since the very notion of format demands an experience which is meaningful at least partly in terms of perceived perimeter, however eccentric. The real problem of contemporary art is not one of quality in terms of performance but rather in terms of idea or notion.

At each position of his wide fields he is concerned with sensitive color and shape transformation. By moments this transformation is slowly and therefore deceptively paced, but it is nevertheless operative. The respiration of muscle-fiber shapes coalescing from fan segmentations into quasi-parallel registers (cued by Youngerman?), the diffusion of opacity into aeration (Olitski?), a refined play of synaptic closures between constellations of petal-laden branches (Calder and the forgotten abstraction of Hélion?), and a dependency on a nostalgic atavism for landscape archetype (horizon, earth, sky, atmosphere, furrow) indicates Dzubas’s royalist entente with that aspect of high contemporary art that breaks down the barriers not, say, between painting and sculpture, but between painting, decoration and design.

Robert Pincus-Witten