New York

Donald Cole

55 Mercer Gallery

By chance last spring I was able to see Donald Cole’s work in his loft. At that time he was abutting stretched canvases which were striking by virtue of the degree of clash between the simple and strong patterns assigned to each rectangle. The pattern image was strong, not because it tied into Matisse but because it derived from something quite vulgar—decorative fabrics. Some of these works are included at Donald Cole’s exhibition at the 55 Mercer Street Co-Op, and I think they still constitute the bulk of his viable work. By contrast, the summer proved an enormously fertile period for the artist, a period during which he may personally have grown while commencing to work with non-stretcher-supported plastic paints. But the recent work, for all its experimental nature, has grown at the same time all the more derivative of and dependent upon artists who made the leap into this kind of substance at dates considerably earlier than Donald Cole. Lynda Benglis (particularly the latex stripes) and Terrence LaNoue (for the general sordid feel of SoHo ecology) come instantly to mind.

The affection for pattern remains marked in Cole’s work and it was in transposing basket weaves and French drops into actual, literal organizations (rather than rendered as depiction) which began this process towards Expressionist disorder. As an idea, an Expressionism linked to the examination of the physical properties of a novel substance resulting from (although this was not the preconceived aim) an organization of simple patterns seems a highly arresting idea, but the distance between seeming and being in Cole’s recent work is wide.

Robert Pincus-Witten