New York

David Novros

Bykert Gallery

David Novros’s pieces, on the other hand, are much easier to contend with on a descriptive level. They respect controlling vertical and horizontal relationships and play with arrangements of “L” templates. Previously these were all congruent but now they are employed more freely and entrap rectangles of the wall which are allowed to “bleed away” into the ground at some open corner. The “L” elements are also of altered proportions—the “foot” and the “spine” of the letter being of different lengths, which are determined by the addition or subtraction of a modular ratio.

The most arresting aspect of Novros’s sculptures is his color—which, in addition to the merely utilitarian role of designating a rudimentary shape, is also extraordinarily refined and peculiar. His color projects an idiosyncratic emotional “feel” which is considerably more arresting than the purely minimal aspects of his fiberglass “L’s”. Ambiguously deep iridescences, blunt earthen hues, leathery ranges of brown, silver-based sprays, assertive, unapologetic and yet original oranges, reds and purples—all serve to convey intelligence and refinement. These, more than the tasteful figure-ground deployments, indicate the pictorial alliances of Novros’s keen art.

Not incidental to the issues broached in these paragraphs, I had the good fortune of seeing Jules Olitski’s new sculptures installed at the Metropolitan Museum (empowered by what new concatenation of blunders one wonders?), and here any invidious comparison cannot be doubted. I have attempted to make it evident that there may be a break between the aspirations of color and structure in Novros’s work—yet the units resolve into cogent aggregates by virtue of the matteness and uniformity of surface employed by Novros. By contrast, Olitski’s forms, also at odds with his color, cannot be said to bridge the gap between the aggressive Constructivism and elegant emotions pertinent to the color range he favors (though future eyes may make the jump with ease). Olitski’s constructions are blotched, bumpy, nettled enamel surfaces. This glistening psoriasis of a blatantly cosmetic range of color (which had already come into view at his exhibition of paintings last year) conspires to produce an effect which is cheaply vulgar rather than overpoweringly so. (Of course, the defensive reader will be quick to see that I have said no more than that I prefer a uniformly smooth surface to a scoured one.) Were I obliged to point to the natural colorist between Novros and Olitski, I should point to the former, though Olitski uses an awful lot of color. Were the choice to be made on the basis of sculptural ambitiousness, I should of course point to Olitski. Admittedly impressive because of their scale, Olitski’s sculptures are a deceptive kind of stage set, as if they really wanted to be a group of flats from the 19th-century theater. Instead, we have a Constructivist simulacrum, on the basis of sheer size and visceral empathy, of nature itself. The Constructivist idiom is Smith’s. The theatricality and visceral empathy Caro’s.

Robert Pincus-Witten