New York

Jack Youngerman

Pace | 32 East 57th Street

Jack Youngerman’s recent work at Pace shows him retracing steps and stumbling a bit into virgin territory. Apparently while continuing his experiments at designing figures to be subtracted from grounds, Youngerman began thinking about how the edges of his canvases might be used to clinch the ambiguity of figure and ground and of figuration and abstraction. His latest solution is the shaped canvas; in addition to rectangles, he is now making circular, elliptical, and mandorla-shaped paintings which tend to attenuate what formerly seemed to be the seriousness of his work.

One of the circular canvases, August Blue doesn’t look bad because the circumference is used to cut the painted shapes in a balanced way. But the other, Roundabout, appears to have resulted from Youngerman’s wondering what would happen if he could continue figure and ground off the canvas at one edge and back on at another. It appears that the surface of Roundabout is supposed to be the surface of a sphere and the color areas at one side of the circle drift off the canvas only to bend through an entirely fictional space (implicitly the space of Morris Louis’s “Unfurleds”) in order to re-enter the canvas on the opposite side.

In addition to that kind of move, Youngerman has taken to designing more sexual innuendo into his paintings in what can’t help but seem an effort to keep the old style going at any cost. The best piece in the show was a handsome enameled pin designed by the artist; the young lady who supplied me with a catalog was wearing it. Hopefully she wore it for the duration of the show.

Kenneth Baker