New York

Jack Beal

Frumkin Gallery

There’s a lot more flash in Jack Beal’s paintings, in his obviously contrived compositions (“contrived” is not intended as a negative term), and in his garish colors. Beal’s show of four paintings at Frumkin also presents two similar paintings for comparison, but in this case, the distinctions are sharp ones. It’s not difficult to see Beal’s two versions of Danae, of 1965 and 1972, as developing from Titian’s painting of the same title, at least, in terms of the poses and the positioning of the figures. As Beal leaves out any suggestion of imminent impregnation by a shower of gold, it can be assumed that the title of the paintings refers to the Titian painting rather than mythology. The first version of Danae is, in one sense, wilder, and, in another sense, more conservative, than the second version; it is wilder in terms of greater complication of content and composition, and conservative in coloration and in its greater attention to detail. The second version, by comparison, is simplified and harsh. The main complication of the earlier version, and what interests me in it, is the placement of mirrors where mirrors would not normally be. One of these mirrors is a large circular mirror in the center of the painting, and in the depiction, is apparently on the floor, leaning against the bed, between the reclining nude and her attendant. It is also the brightest spot in the painting, reflecting what is traditionally the most interesting parts of the nude which otherwise are hidden in the turn of her body. The other mirror is a three-part job which seems to form the headboard of the bed, and it reflects the face of the attendant. The mirrors seem to satisfy a curiosity of what the face of the attendant and the body of the nude look like. It is as if the mirrors were a comment, an unveiling of the myth of the female nude in art as pure form rather than as legitimized pinups. The mirrors, in this sense, are a gift to the tantalized male “art lover.”

The other two paintings in the show are characterized by their glaring colors and their awkwardness. Both characteristics were obviously intentional, but the nature of the intention escapes me. Beal also showed 12 pastel, very English, Romantic-looking landscapes, and some charcoal portraits. There really is not much to think about, or much to say about this kind of work.

Bruce Boice