New York

Jules Olitski

Knoedler Contemporary Art

As the ’60s progressed Jules Olitski’s paintings went through a series of changes that, in my opinion, aimed at incorporating the openness of Pollock’s work of 1947–51 into a format comparably overwhelming in size, but structured by color. Color, to Olitski, has always operated—as did line for Pollock—as a material substance as well as an optical signifier, but in his new work—unlike that of the recent past—violent gesture is no longer undermined by a fragile and spatially ambiguous pigmentation. The result is a retreat from the heroic into pathos, from internal complexity to a thick surface held together by gestural excess. Eden Command, 1974, is a particularly unfortunate title for a painting that otherwise looks like a determined return to Abstract Expressionism, in that it reminds one once again of that generation’s critical references to The Fall. However, it seems unlikely that this exhibition is more than an aberrant and isolated incident in Olitski’s career.

––Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe