New York

Robert Zakanych

Cunningham Ward Gallery

Robert Zakanych’s paintings at Cunningham Ward are about normal size in current terms, meaning large but not that large, and they look something like unfinished wallpaper. The canvases are divided into large regular grids which don’t fit the paintings evenly but are, in a sense, cropped, and within or overlaid on the grids are regularly repeated patterns such as cloverleafs, circles, and uniform stacked wavy bands. In all four of the paintings the center portions are finished, at least comparatively, in that the patterns have been completely filled in, covering the white canvas; the areas moving away from center are progressively less finished in, exposing traces of canvas until eventually at the edges, just canvas and drawing. In the finished central areas, the colors are extremely close in value and intensity, and individual colors and shapes are difficult to distinguish. In a sense, these colors and shapes become clearer as the painting more or less disintegrates into rougher handling or virtually no handling at all at the edges. The paintings, by being in various stages of completion at one time, suggest Process art. There doesn’t seem to be much point in pursuing a Process notion too far, however, for Zakanych’s concerns seem more realistically to be those shared by other current abstract painters trying to figure out what to do on a canvas (witness the Whitney Biennial). This element of process, of progressive unfinishedness seems more Zakanych’s personal deviation by which he is, with some difficulty, identifiable.

The repetitive patterns and combined finishedness and unfinishedness, as well as the dryness of the color and the brushwork are a pleasant respite from so much glitter and globs of paint one sees all over the place, and these are handsome paintings if not particularly noteworthy. It is perhaps only my romantic perversity which makes me wish impatience and laziness could be inferred from these paintings, that the artist could not quite bring himself to finish them; but such an inference is, of course, irrelevant to the paintings and, perhaps, sacrilegious.

––Bruce Boice