New York

Don Dudley

Pam Adler Gallery

Working with modular 2-by-8-inch forms of homosote blocks, Don Dudley performs variations on simple, sparse configurations. Nailing the blocks to the gallery wall, he carefully orders their arrangement in several kinds of patterns. Arranged lengthwise, the blocks line up in long panels; in two instances, they are arranged symmetrically in pyramidal formations, narrowing from top to bottom, Color is monochrome, in variations of gray tones brushed lightly onto the surface, or in pale silvery greens and plum. Perfect order combined with understated color reinforces the total lack of movement or change within them.

The formula for each piece seems evident—if anything is hidden, it fails to create an impression or atmosphere. One wall of the gallery to each piece gives plenty of room for various angles of viewing; very little occurs from a different vantage point, except for the one corner piece which seems to vary in length as you approach it from either wall. In pale plum color, a single centered nail pins each module of board to the wall. Seventeen equal-length stripes ascend the wall, made of three sections of board lined up next to each other. The top five stripes narrow to an arrow-point at the very top; again, a single nail pierces the board and keeps it in place. The arrangement is cool, balanced and precise, but unfortunately dead in terms of internal movement. Very little shadow is present; the glare of the gallery lights obliterates any subtle color shifts that may be present.

This piece is a prototype for the other pieces in this particular show. One other pyramid arrangement spans another wall, a simple column featuring T-formation blocks fits a third, and two columns arranged at slight angles to each other finishes the last wall.

Dudley’s former work was in a similar vein, but much less austere, dealing out more information yet losing none of the impact of a fresh clean line. More gesture-oriented, these pieces used long lengths of painted metal or board, arranged in linear configurations to denote spatial placements around and within their confines. Color, less restricted than in the more recent works, varied within each line, often repeating several times at intervals within the total form. Just as spare as these latter pieces, they made, nevertheless, a more emphatic statement. The lines they drew were bolder, the colors more brash; yet they suffered no loss of delicacy.

In the transformation from the earlier works to the latest, the urgency and strength of the gesture was replaced by the reticent placement of those single nails in the center of each board section. The emphasis shifted from internal/external boundary to a more solid overall form, with all the interest internally. placed on those careful nails. The new pieces sport attractive surfaces; their refinement is polished and well controlled, but a needless amount of energy has been lost in the process of further reducing the elements to a more pristine statement.

As Dudley’s work continues to grow some of its former energy may return. A hint of further spatial involvement is given in one drawing—red, yellows, black and gray stripes alternately couple on either side of a center (corner) line. But one pair of lines ignores the central seam, and veers off into space in front of the corner. The spatial ambiguity is startling after the emphasis on total symmetry and predictable arrangement of all the other pieces. Taking a risk in placement as well as implication, this study forms a connection between former works and present ones. If it also predicts a future of experimentation, it indicates fresh involvement with the spatial, gestural concerns so missed in Dudley’s latest pieces.

Deborah Perlberg