New York

Budd Hopkins

William Zierler Gallery

Where Budd Hopkins used to combine several kinds of painting, about three, on the same canvas, he is now laying them out separately, each on a different panel. Hopkins’ work has always spoken too completely of his admiration for other artists. He sought to combine the painterly blacks and whites of Kline with a Neo-Plastic geometry. In previous work, a central circle would be interrupted by a chevron of AE painterliness or diagonal bands of color. Now the bands, the painterliness and the circles are all on separate panels in much the same relationship. Panels of stripes and black-and-white Kline-ness are annexed to a central panel with a circle on it, a rectilinear jumble wandering across the wall. The circles are the best part, fastidiously painted in bright colors. Often the circles are delineated merely by a shift in the brushstroke, like Malevich’s White on White, only here it’s sometimes red on red or raspberry on raspberry. While the painterly areas continue to look like illustrations of Klines, the bands now look like baby Nolands.

With things separated off this way, the obvious question is irresistible. Ask yourself, could any of these parts survive as a whole, on its own? And if it could, would it have anything to do with Hopkins? No and not much. Hopkins’ technical ability is highly developed (to the point that his paintings tend to look brittle). But once you start thinking about the parts of these paintings on their own, it’s obvious that Hopkins is merely combining other people’s styles without adding enough of himself, despite his color and his craftsmanship. I can appreciate Hopkins’ desire for painting whose complexity verges on the paradoxical, but this isn’t paradox, it’s pastiche. These parts aren’t integrated into a complex believable whole; they’re simply stuck together and they’re easily undone. From the looks of things Hopkins is most involved with the circles and without the little knick-knack panels, he could start anew, with geometric art circa 1945.

Roberta Smith