New York

Nina Yankowitz

Kornblee Gallery

For the young artist presently engaged in finding himself, several issues which emerged in the period of 1963–1967 regarding the new pictorial nature of sculpture must seem irresistible. With the advent, in 1963, of Oldenburg’s soft sculptures and Rosenquist’s slashed environmental paintings, it became apparent that sculpture could be soft, that it could be pegged upon the wall to respond to little else than the tug of gravity, and, in addition, it could incorporate the kind of soaked-in, washed-out coloration which prevailed in the period’s high abstraction. Sculpture could, in part, act like later field painting, only without the stretcher supports.

Nina Yankowitz very quickly picked up such stylistic tips, correlating their interdependencies in late 1968, although she was, at the time, scarcely into her twenties. Because of the expertness of the correlation and her green years, I impute no bad faith to her performance, and yet it is hard not to feel a certain reservation before her work. Too many “extraneous” elements still suggest the young collector rather than the mature synthesist. Foremost among such elements are the hard Abstract Illusionist patterns, established through the employment of masking tape prior to the application of her color or to the limp draping of her cloth pieces upon the wall. The support of the draped works is assisted by small lathe-like sections of wood to which the rough configuration of the piece has first been stapled. As the canvas is draped, prodded and puffed, the illusionist patterns are anamorphically distorted. It is this very distortion which suggests to me a more rugged and romantic possibility for Yankowitz’s work. I wonder whether, should she ever return to conventionally stretched surfaces and to brushes and paint alone, she might not make a more convincing straight Expressionist painter. Beyond this already bold presumption I withhold further speculation as, even at this early moment, the artist is obviously a figure of talent—as much betrayed by the acute fashionability of her devices as she is sustained by them.

Robert Pincus-Witten