New York

Dan Christensen, Larry Zox

Andre Emmerich Gallery, Uptown

I think that Dan Christensen’s recent paintings are better than the ones from the past two shows, although it is the kind of painting that I find difficult to remember from year to year. Several of his recent shows have been primarily white; this one is not. These paintings are rich and dark, though still with a monochrome layer over more colorful mixtures. The results are reminiscent of old Oriental screens; they seem ancient, as if the imagery or brocade had decayed to abstraction. I sometimes feel that I am looking at the paintings from the wrong side, that the front of the painting, clear and bright, is facing the wall. The layering is strange, sometimes it is almost transparent, like a series of x-rayed pentimenti. Colors, strokes and texture don’t necessarily line up; they shift and blur. The space also slips back and forth, sideways. And yet, like a lot of very physical painting, it seem too exact—almost like photo-Realism—they don’t look like the real thing. It’s hard for me to explain that association, except by saying that these paintings remind me of the brushstrokes that John Clem Clark painted a few years ago. The strokes are broad and assured and many of the paintings have beautiful areas in them. Christensen can push it around, but he never reveals what compels him to do so.

Larry Zox had a green painting in the Whitney’s 1973 Biennial which looked like a weak Christensen stain painting circa 1971, or maybe a Noland. It seemed to signal his disappearance into the Emmerich mode. It is now possible that Zox is trying to work out of it, back to something more in keeping with his own character. That character even at its best was extremely dependent upon Stella, so maybe it is more accurate to say that Zox is merely switching allegiances again. Either way, in his recent work Zox is staining around the edges of his canvas with colors which are bright and acid, making configurations of overlapping geometric areas. The stained quality is that of Morris Louis but some of the shapes are Zox’s.

Roberta Smith