reviews

  • Franz Kline, Robert Rauschenberg, and Lucas Samaras

    Whitney Museum, Castelli Gallery, and Pace Gallery

    It seems fantastic that between, say, 1950 and 1958, that is between Franz Kline’s 40th and 48th year, he was a great painter. Without this interregnum he would have remained a minor urban illustrator on the New York scene of the 1930s. Naturally, the great productions of the early fifties force one to regard the earlier work with a more respectful intensity, as they disclose clues of his later achievement. But, for all that, the beginning is a familiar provincial tale of Cubist, Expressionist, Impressionist and Social Realist conventions, all played out on a very modest scale. At the painful

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  • Jack Beal

    Frumkin Gallery

    A few years back Jack Beal disclosed a world predicated on the crowded and large 17th-century still life with its multitude of spatial subterfuges—chiaroscuro, repoussoir, diagonal recessions. Replacing the scattered goblets and lush fruits of these sensuous organizations with rotissematic nude females and cast-aside lowpoint mohair sofas, Beal began a process of attrition away from brushy, massive modulations in favor of hairline edges and honed drawing, which produce images of sharp spatial ambiguity. While perfecting the extendible webwork of these contours the color grew proportionally to

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  • Thomas Downing

    Sachs Gallery

    Thomas Downing presents a dozen pieces of constant format, a channel with fretted folds at either side. In a movement in which manipulative personality is sacrificed to the search for one’s own signature shape—Downing’s contribution is a rejection of the anticipated isometrics common to a wide segment of the abstract illusionist group (another faction plays at space-annihilating permutation, i.e. illusionism versus elusiveness). Downing deals instead in a flip-side Renaissance single-point perspective, bringing to mind by its very reversal, Ron Davis’s recent Uccellesque double polyhedrons. The

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  • Al Held

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    What looked to me at first like a radical departure from his own previous work turned out to be quite in keeping with it, and a development from the thinking which has sustained Al Held’s painting for the past several years. In his show at the Emmerich Gallery, Held’s black and white canvases seemed to me peculiarly stark but emotionally complex, sometimes overly clever, though not tricky, and yet adventurous and tough. They combine elements of the dramatic Abstract Expressionist sensibility which Held still nurtures, with a calculated, stubborn intellect not given to producing easily accessible

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  • Ellsworth Kelly

    Sidney Janis

    At the Sidney Janis Gallery Ellsworth Kelly’s new paintings show a greater mobility of form balanced finely by his characteristic use of high-keyed, equal-valued color. While these works are not as luxurious as the rainbow sequences he exhibited two years ago, they mark out a new but fruitfully retrospective area in an heuristic development. He is now able to work his way through and beyond some of the figure-ground problems he had encountered in earlier work. Younger artists like Charles Hinman carried some of these concerns into three-dimensional shaped canvas, although Kelly himself extended

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  • Robert Duran

    Bykert Gallery

    In his second one-man show at the Bykert Gallery Robert Duran diverges from the look of his earlier sculpture to explore a more systematic yet strangely more open organization in the new pieces. In several of his older works diagonal interlocks, jutting arrow-like shapes, and closely aligned axial parts often framed or forced the space into relatively defined areas. This tight spatial channeling left few possibilities for anything but the establishment of the emphatic, often blocky, gravity-bound volumes of the sculptures’ components. This obdurateness and control have not been abandoned in

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  • Robert Motherwell

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    The Whitney Museum exhibited 30 of Robert Motherwell’s recent collages, a series of beige figurations on white, and another group in which the artist employs Gauloises cigarette wrappers, envelopes, and bright patches of painted color, more geometrically organized than the freer torn and textured browns and whites of the former group. The Mu­seum’s director, John I. H. Baur (in a wall label posted near the collages) was truly apologetic in his explana­tion of the fact that the particular choice of Gauloises packets does not indicate Motherwell’s “susceptibility to French influence” (rather, it

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  • John Button

    Kornblee Gal­lery

    The studied mood of romantically tinged psychological isolation which the four representational oils by John Button (at the Kornblee Gal­lery) aimed to evoke was somewhat compromised by their curiously clumsy and sometimes hasty execu­tion. In Canadian Street Button shows an empty street with an ominously silhouetted corner, the dormered and shuttered windows of its buildings blank and dark, mute to the single figure of a woman crossing the in­tersection. The suppression of de­tail, the starkness of the lighting, the Hopperesque quality of alienation expressed by the scene itself are all effective

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  • “The American Vision, 1825–1875”

    Knoedler and Co.

    The Public Education Association, following what is by now an estab­lished practice, has had a benefit show of American paintings divided among three galleries. The show is called “The American Vision, 1825–1875,” with figure and still life on exhibit at Knoedler, genre at Hirschl and Adler and landscape at Paul Ro­senberg. In a general way, it was a good show, rather more balanced than either the Whitney’s or the Met’s big American shows of the last few years, but it left one with more reservations about the quality of American paint­ing than either of those two shows did. This is partly due,

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