New York

Giorgio Cavallon, Ludwig Sander

Sachs Gallery

Giorgio Cavallon’s recent painting, while clearly a powerful demonstration of abstract painterly sensibility, is for me, curiously off key. I am too aware, for example, of an affiliation with fine paper collage in the manner of Anne Ryan, scaled up, more loosely “gridded” across the surface and sometimes, here and there, swinging into broad arcs. But it is less the structural derivation than the coloristic tentativeness that puts me off. Being scrupulously deliberate about his compositions, Cavallon has grown even more anxious with regard to his color—by now little more than a painting of whites, variously cool or warm, dry or with more oil slick in them. Certain viewers, I readily admit, will adduce from this that instead of tentativeness such blanchings out will testify to Cavallon’s veteran command. I just don’t see it that way. Each time he sets down a patch of color, it is for me denied, whitened over and out. This results in paintings of enormous self-consciousness and self-apology. That Cavallon’s new paintings are dependencies of Hans Hofmann and from him back to Synchromism, I think is fairly evident. And it is this historical vulnerability that the whites seem to want to cover.

Ludwig Sander’s recent exhibitions attest to a singular loyalty to the Mondrianizing one associates with American abstraction in the later 1930s. Without viably enlarging the compositional issues evolved at that time, Sander has nonetheless remained faithful to an art of more or less vertical and horizontal frontality. Seeking a more personal note, Sander now is working with compositions radiating from large squares, although such configurations can be pointed to in the production of Mondrian as early as the 1920s.

Sander establishes his composition with a thin, moist, black line rather than by the edge of the rectangle itself. The thin rectangles thereby produced come to denote the vestigial sections of still other squares extending beyond the periphery of the canvas. These small rectangular remnants and the horizontal-vertical discontinuities constitute pleasant vagaries revealing the playfulness of a ripe and mature sensibility still determined to mine what others today might easily consider a barren vein. Despite a lush cleanness of color, Sander is still filling in the geometrical shape. His color, I think, is not that of a person who is a natural colorist but rather that of a painter, who, by dint of application, is able at moments to pass for one. In Pawnee III, for example, the largest square is a hot orange which spatially plays against the next largest square in the upper right, which is a middle red. The thin blue rectangles at the upper and lower edge of the large orange rectangle play off a middle blue and a cold violet blue against one another. In addition, they assist in vitalizing the big complementary orange square. Such academic switches from hot to cold, advancing and recessive planes, work out of firm traditionalist pictorial technique. Similar lessons may be observed in the geometricizing of Fritz Glarner, Ilya Bolotowsky and Burgoyne Diller. Obviously, the Expressionistic use of these devices are best realized in the work of Hans Hofmann. Yet Sander brings off such coloristic conflicts with an expository breeziness and lack of apology that points him out as a painter of authority too frequently overlooked.

Robert Pincus-Witten