New York

Larry Poons

Knoedler Contemporary Art

Larry Poons is squirting paint on the vertical now; a few years back it was on the diagonal in great sweeping arcs. The vertical squirts usually end in a splash at the top or the bottom of the canvas and this increases the suggestions of waterfalls or related events. There is something essentially narrative about Poons’s undertaking. Each painting is an unvaried continuum within which a departure from the norm, some noticeable incident becomes the focal point or climax. At first, it all looks very accidental and then it all looks very arranged and it is not too involving either way. Nonetheless, Poons’s color is better than before and his surface is more varied. In some paintings the colors remain distinct, brightly inharmonious. The paint is not as thick as previously and occasionally gives way to bare, unprimed canvas. In a work titled Ykes canvas shows white through a bluish green color at the bottom, balanced with streaks of white paint at the top. There is a tendency for largely unvaried color to shift rather dramatically at some crucial point, usually an edge or a corner. This happens in the extreme in Parrot Island, the best painting in the show. Predominantly green and blue splintered with white, its surface contains hints of flesh near the right edge which descend to a solid flesh area, edged in deep red, in the lower-right corner. The flesh decreases across the bottom edge of the painting, disappearing completely toward the far-left side. The paintings reflect greater control, but their structure is still quite dependent upon these isolated incidents for articulation. Poons’s work looks like an obvious response to the combined challenges of Pollock and Morris Louis: drips into fountains. His earlier paintings may not have taken on the past the way these do, but they were infinitely better. Despite what seems to be a formulated sense of history, it is apparent that Poons sees a challenge somewhere and is pursuing it. In the mid ’60s he did some very fine paintings. One continually hopes that sooner or later he will do them again.

Roberta Smith