New York

Terence La Noue

Paley and Lowe Gallery

The critical issues of the revival of Abstract Expressionism which mark- ed the conclusion of the Sixties continue to erupt in the fresh art of the Seventies. Essential to that revival is the objectified painting whose very tangibility is underscored by the vast amount of prefabricated environmental detritus incorporated into its body. Clearly Terence La Noue, whose talented if decorative production I was only able to signal in passing last year, relies heavily on the now seemingly-prescient efforts of Keith Sonnier and the late Eva Hesse as well as two solid years of what I have called Thick Field painting—the latter in its own way a strong indication of the phenomena connected with the resurgence of Abstract Expressionist sensibility as well. But such a statement about lineage does little to discredit the good impression of La Noue’s work since what is perhaps discreditable in these works is what is discreditable in the whole advancing front of which it forms only a part.

La Noue generally works from an application of roughly spread, pigment-filled liquitex upon a textured floor such as wooden parquet. Later, other transfers of textured relief may be imbricated into the surface. Often burlappy tobacco cloth can be seen peering through. La Noue’s color tends to be high-key—lavenders, tans, pinks—Jordan Almondy in the way that Richard Van Buren’s color often can be and to whose general drift La Noue’s work bears distinct reference.

But there is a troublesome break in La Noue’s work—some intellectual short circuit which degrades his sensibility. Against his dark and pale corruscations of rubber—his “Latex Veils”—La Noue hangs or affixes long strands of rubber, dark fat coils, elements of worn wood, fringes of all manner, which speak—in another way—of the current life style of the young as expressed in their clothing. In such a conjunction a painting like Pollock’s Blue Poles can easily be seen as the core, say, of La Noue’s Kawich Range. Like so many others around him, La Noue turns Abstract Expressionism into an ornamental exercise based on taste discriminations rather than on the perilous decisions of total human import which they were. In short, I am suggesting that La Noue is essentially committed to a lyrical and ornamental art and even more, I think that I can discern in his art the reason for this predisposition.

I think that the reason that La Noue—and by extension many artists—opts for ornament is because of his reluctance to admit of the inner predisposition he has for naturalistic art. It seems to me that the shift from the abstract to the ornamental mode is facilitated by that kind of abstracting mentality which views abstraction as something tangible, something actual. This empiricism—and we can point to it in Kupka as early as 1912 as well—is avowed by La Noue in his drawings, which are made after the reliefs themselves are finished. In such drawings the artist can display his sure, floridly consummate hand—similar to that of William Wiley’s—and the excelling fineness of the transcription is a proof, a telling demonstration of the fact that his art is now measurable not according to its own functional requirements, but against nature. Of course I cannot claim that this for sure is the reef upon which La Noue’s art will founder but it seems to me to be the perfidy by which many young artists will yet betray themselves and their ambitions.

Robert Pincus-Witten