New York

Gabriel Laderman

Robert Schoelkopf Gallery

Gabriel Laderman showed excellent still lifes and landscapes. They are not so very different from what he last exhibited, the principal gain being in landscape. Laderman’s idea of space is one which is very usual for a figurative painter: he conceives of it as a kind of void in which solids can be placed and to which they give interest, accent or inflection; space is passive, in this approach. But in Laderman’s most recent landscapes this is much less true, and sometimes not true at all. The buildings remain as solid blocks or planes punctuating a void, but foliage now becomes a fluid, indeterminate and dynamic element that acts sometimes as a solid, like the buildings, sometimes as a void, like the sky—very much the role that foliage and shadows play in Cézanne’s landscape work from about 1890.

The still lifes in this show are not much changed from previous ones, although they are more consistently fine than the landscapes. In them, Laderman is a combination of Roger van der Weyden and late Morandi, if that conveys an image. His interest in form is very strong and very conceptual, but it is not wholly conceptual—the formal relationships can be sensuous. The opposite balance of qualities seems to be found in respect of color: here, the relationships are paramount, and they seem basically hedonistic, but nothing is done with texture, medium or handling to enhance this; and of course the color intervals have an elegance that appeals very strongly to the mind.

On balance, I feel that the still lifes are more successful than the landscapes because in the latter the artist’s intellect is less useful to him. In landscape, problems of structure and relation are more difficult if only because they are less overt, but must instead be grasped beneath a bewildering flak of sensory stimuli. These latter of course afford all sorts of possibilities for hedonism, but only if a sensibility is not too cerebral to make them help it. Finally, the absence of efforts at figure painting, especially of figures in action, is significant. I feel, as I always have, that the depiction of what has been called “significant action” since Aristotle used the phrase in his Poetics is the end of representational painting and that no art is representational in the fullest sense unless it achieves this. But the question is whether this is among the possibilities that our culture allows.

Jerrold Lanes