New York

Kenneth Noland, Larry Zox

André Emmerich Gallery uptown

The involution of the modernist position is apparent in the work of younger artists, which repeats the pictorial conventions explored in the last decade. Within the support structure, this reconfirms the economic value of older modernist art, and even the older painters assure the value of their past work by continuing to refine it or by integrating the pictorial conventions of their colleagues. This is visible in Kenneth Noland’s recent show, whose refined and delicate work is the essence of taste and sensibility. He has amalgamated structures explored in the ’60s: stripes (his own), around the edges (Olitski), opening up the center (Olitski, Louis), with an atmospheric mist (Olitski’s spray transformed into wash), suggesting sky and water in a vague metaphor (early Frankenthaler). While the work is capably painted, its expertise serves to maintain the value of his past work without attempting to match the rigor of the older paintings. In the new work, the use of harmonious pastels eliminates any element that might be disturbing or distasteful. The technical mastery gives the impression that the work contains more than it actually does; a perfect example of the celebrated modernist assertion that sugar tastes sweet. In this respect, Noland is the equivalent of Bouguereau—within the context of performance, he cannot be faulted.

Another example of an older painter whose work has conformed to the conventions of modernism is Larry Zox—his feeling for color and placement is also refined and professional. He has abandoned the hard-edge, more optical work he had been doing for the last decade in favor of looser edges and wash on unprimed canvas, subtle fields of analogous colors framed around the edges with Olitskilike bands of varying widths. While the earlier work was somewhat serial and programmatic, the new paintings are lyrical and ingratiating.

Statistically, it appears that Olitski and Poons have exercised the greatest influence on younger painters. The effect of Olitski’s latest paintings, which use the squeegee instead of spray, can be observed in the recent work of Dan Christensen (who has always been a reliable barometer of current modernist thinking), and of William Pettet.

Lizzie Borden