New York

Richard Smith

Feigen Gallery

Richard Smith is one of those artists on whom one stakes hopes; the artist who first made both the shaped surface and serial canvases work together must have other great things in mind. Unfortunately, such things aren’t manifested in his latest show at Feigen. What appears to be happening in these paintings is that the shaped surfaces are being made to carry into real space the gesture implied by painterly strokes on the surface. Thus in Rule of Thumb the arching suggested by a mass of dark strokes in a blue field is realized as the bottom edge of the canvas is brought up and forward, making the surface into a kind of fender form. This particular painting has a kind of dark, menacing aspect—the dark strokes really seem to be consuming the blue field—so that the space formed by the shaped canvas is forbidding. But that is the sort of pictorial effect that does not seem to be Smith’s interest in the other paintings, at least it isn’t made to work in them. He appears to be more interested in the conventionally inviolate space just in front of and at the periphery of a painting’s surface. The problem is, of course, that once the painting itself is made to enter that space, the space itself is displaced. Perhaps Smith is looking for a way to make paint or at least color exceed the painting without overwhelming it as a format. The current series of paintings haven’t done this, and what else they are doing is not at all clear.

Kenneth Baker