New York

Lawrence Stafford

David Whitney Gallery

Lawrence Stafford presents a dry and dispassionate variant of a kind of painting which is more immediately understood to be wet and extroverted. I refer to the changed conception of field painting which of late has drifted toward heavily moist surface and impassioned gestural sprawl. I have designated this development as fat field painting but as a term it doesn’t seem applicable here.

Stafford will not identify himself in a single way except perhaps that there are more long dry stroked paintings off a whisk broom than any other. This stroke is presented in a straight horizontal rendition or it intermazes with super-applications of diagonals which build up a thin optical field devoid of any anticipated radiance or sensuousness.

Several paintings also stress all-over stippling or equi-constant airbrushing. Since the exhibition appears to lack focus, the general tone is inconclusive except in terms of the constant note of seriousness throughout. Stafford may be insisting that many modes must be examined before they can be discarded or that an artist is many sensibilities at the same time, itself an interesting idea which indicates that it is far too soon to patronize the earnestness of the works. Within these stingy colors and patent systemizations there is a connecting theme of overall dispersed activity and this notion is, in principle if not yet in execution, an idea of value. But the idea still looks more received than reinvented.

Robert Pincus-Witten