New York

Anne Truitt and Richard Friedberg

Emmerich Gallery and Tibor de Nagy Gallery

Dressed up minimal and poly-chromed clunky post-Caro—sculptural idioms by now familiar and already somewhat hackneyed—were the works in two exhibitions, Anne Truitt’s at the Emmerich Gallery, and Richard Friedberg’s at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery. Truitt’s tall, painted rectangular columns are set on thin (one to one and one-half inch) indented and invisible platforms so that these single, flawlessly colored iconic shafts seem to rest in a state of tenuous suspension above the ground. The attempt to make color intrinsic to the most basic, denuded forms—to make this color radiate from within the overall volume of the simple tall or short columns—is not entirely unsuccessful, but most often the candy-coated softness or the exclusively optical impact of the poly-chroming compromises the forthright physicality of the forms, making them only successively readable surfaces instead of integral three-dimensional volumes.

Truitt usually divides a column into several painted areas, tracing either vertical or horizontal divisions, sometimes in proportionally phased sections which may work to dissolve the angles and sharpness of the forms which they coat so immaculately. In works like Way or Moonwind the whispery lemon buffs, lime yellows, and tallow whites suffuse the smallish squared shafts with a disembodied glow, making them into mute ritual obelisks, hermetic, shrine-like in their isolation, but also evasively neutral in terms of their sense of presence. Inference takes over expressively, while the actual contour, silhouette, and geometric bulk of the columns loses emphasis. Morning Choice or Return are more brightly painted, with multicolored horizontal bands or two-toned, close-valued hot pink and orange covering all four sides. Here particularly detrimental, the hues direct attention to the part-to-part surface relationships, quite separated from the weight or physical and structural spareness of the forms. The work is a strange and at times unsatisfying blend of pictorial composition and literal form that seeks to operate in perceptual areas which often conflict before they reinforce each other. Optical expansion and dissolution, physical restriction and suspension are at their best combined to create an elusive object, but the kind of sensitive coloristic modulation which Miss Truitt brings to her sculpture does not at all seem to meet or sustain the needs and imperatives of the sculptural forms themselves. Though the work wants to move away from the severity of the minimal mode while preserving its holistic impact, the result is still an incongruously achieved marriage of one attitude and impulse towards subtle, deceptively detailed and manipulative color-light dynamics and another attitude about not shaping but simply establishing form and its presence.

Richard Friedberg’s wooden models for painted steel sculptures are symptomatic of the short-term interest and effectiveness of a derivative style which is not essentially or importantly reformulated but is only reinterpreted in a rather heavy-handed way. Minus the engineered prowess and sophistication of Anthony Caro’s disparately organized planes and poles (works like Caro’s 1967 Prairie serve as the direct prototype), Friedberg’s Golder’s Green navigates the space it occupies both shakily and without enduring or convincing authority. In this work a dark green slab looks like it is held about an inch off the floor by a white L-shaped frame unit attached at one corner and projecting from it. Beside this component is a yellow square with an arcing inset which also lies parallel to, but above the ground plane. The intent of spatial complexity and ambivalence is ill accomplished here because the concept of spacing and balance is not nearly as ambitious or as daring as it hopes to be. Both the forms and their disposition are rather staid and lacking in invention. In Stacy-Jo Friedberg tries to spice up the three part work with bright sugary pink, chrome yellow, and shocking green. An undulating double curve, a slanting, indented plane secured by a notched T-bar, and a rosy, corrugated platform are perched on a large two foot high (and unnecessary) base. The irrelevance of the polychrome (even though it most obviously makes the distinction between the three differently shaped units) as a decorative skin is only the punctuation to the irrelevant issues raised by the pat and very studied, traditional arrangement of contours and volumes (rotund, planimetric, channeled) and contrasting surfaces (corrugated, flat, notched, curving) in this work. That an old-timer like George Sugarman (to whose precedent Friedberg also refers) can still elicit original and vitalized solutions to the same problems Friedberg has taken up with less emphatic results, only points to the aridness of the latter’s explorations in this vein.

Emily Wasserman