New York

Garry Rich, Charles Schucker

Max Hutchinson Gallery

One cannot exclude a certain bending over backward, not in the painting perhaps, but in the reviewing of current Abstract Expressionist painting generally, and of Garry Rich’s work in particular. Although still in his thirties, Rich joined that body of painters who rendered the Expressionist biases of color painting in the ’60s more explicit. Their lot, it appears, has been a mean one—but there has been a certain tendency if not to think well of such work, then at least not to speak ill of it. 

Rich is but one of many who persist in Expressionist painting. Aware that the primary feature of Expressionism is the rejection of system, Rich is at pains to hide and disfigure an explicit analytical means—here the use of a cursorily executed lozenge network across the surface—nonetheless duplicitously exploited in order to render diffident downbeat color abstractions more con temporary in their effect. This ruse, instead of insuring his painting’s success, reverses its path and defeats him. 

Unlike an analytical art in which the work is only incidentally an object of prestige within the continued elucidation of a system, Expressionist painting idealizes the autonomy of the individual work. However, the individual work is lent prestige only insofar as it is able to crystallize the urges of a unique instant in which accidents fortuitously complement one another so as to induce the sense of wonder and beauty—at least for the Romantically formed mind. 

Therefore, the Expressionist career ought not to be about production but destruction—one documented not by the ongoing record of analysis but the unchronometric presence of the extremely rare and perfect accident. So long as Rich, and Expressionist painters like him, persist in the pursuit of the false grail of an epistemic structure within an Expressionist art, they deny themselves even that minute remoteness of encountering such perfect accidents. Rich—and to indicate that these remarks are not invidious, Poons as well—must reject the tentative as the exhibitable, because in so doing he presents us with the historiography of the least meaningful aspect of his or any Expressionist painter’s career. 

The problem is more painful perhaps in veteran careers than in those of artists starting out. In this sense, Charles Schucker’s current efforts render the situation more poignant, if only because Schucker is a painter in his sixties while Rich is in his thirties. To me, the most interesting recent paintings of Schucker’s are not those shown in the present exhibition alongside Rich’s work, but those earlier systematic attempts—paralleling Rich’s lozenge grid—in which Schucker had excised the Expressionist gesture from the canvas ground, exhibiting these painterly and gestural silhouettes against the walls of the second-floor Whitney galleries in 1971. At that time, Schucker was sensitive to the idea of the autonomous gesture functioning as an end in itself—a pictorial sculpture of the kind to be seen, say, in the colored latex tossings of Lynda Benglis. Too little attention has been paid to Charles Schucker’s relevance to this reexperiencing of Abstract Expressionist issues in terms of the heightened colorism germane to the pictorial sculpture of the late ’60s. To do so now is to acknowledge personal educational debt to the painter; to dwell on it, however, is in no sense pertinent to the issues of the present exhibition, which, I am afraid—like practically all Expressionist painting today—only serve to dramatize the futile hollowness and debased conventions of the mode. 

Robert Pincus-Witten