New York

Robert Mangold

Another notion of progression arises in Robert Mangold’s new paintings. Because the canvas support exists as already given, the internal drawing becomes a subtractive process, a cutting into the surface. Dividing up the whole instead of building or growing into it. For example, in his rose-colored Square within a Square 3 Mangold draws the outer edge of the square support with an internal line. The surface is then further articulated with three proportionately decreasing squares arranged in order counterclockwise from the bottom right to the top left. Painting becomes a process of sequential segmentation, a kind of penetration from the outside into and onto the surface through a continual redefinition of limits. Yet what is involved is not really a simple exposition of Michael Fried’s idea of deductive structuring. One focuses more on the articulation of the surface than on the support. In fact, the progressive diminution of the squares sets up a perspectival illusion which visually warps the canvas frame by lending more weight to one corner than another. The lines exist as definitions of a figure in a field. By separating out areas, they alter the overall color’s tone to push and pull in and out of space. However, it is through their extension both forward and backward, increasing or diminishing in size, that the squares imply the coexistence of the figure with the field—the given of the figure as the field. One is reminded of Mangold’s earlier walls where the sections hinted at a whole and yet were complete in themselves. Here the process is reversed. The whole insists on its fragmentation as a perceptual grouping of elements each suggesting another in the continual expansion and contraction which informs totality. Cutting into the surface is a spiraling activity through which one progresses both into and out of a continuum. What becomes explicit is the infinity of shapes within shapes. That the product is not the sum of its parts but rather the possibility for them.

Susan Heinemann