New York

Al Held

Andre Emmerich Gallery

I remember some of Al Held’s earlier, large, solid, simple-shape, colored paintings. His work has changed a lot since then, even though some things remain, such as his preference for difficult figure/ground relationships. The changes he’s gone through haven’t, in my opinion, made him a better painter. The move away from color was probably his most drastic mistake. Before this show, I had never really seen any of the black-and-white paintings except as illustrations. I was taken aback by the new ones because others of similar type looked so much better in scaled-down, generalized reproduction. (I confess a prejudice in the matter: I often find that Nolands make much handsomer magazine covers than paintings.) In “reality,” Held’s paintings seem cold and calculated, too forcefully controlling what should be light and airy figures in a fluid space.

Predictably, Held continues to explore the

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