New York

Robert Mangold

John Weber Gallery

In his new paintings Robert Mangold has altered the outside shape of the canvas as a whole, destroying the perfect rectangle in favor of a distorted perimeter. Each painting is composed of two canvases side by side, the line between them functioning as a formal drawn line. An “X” is penciled in from upper to lower boundaries, carefully off-center, just missing the central line at the crossing. These two ideas at once displace the recognizable shape of the canvases—Mangold plays with the ambiguity of his defined forms, purposely avoiding the expected division or shape. So far these are familiar themes and problems, related to fitting arcs and triangles within a confined boundary area. But the complexity of that problem increases in these works. Not only the off-set sides of the canvas itself (subtle, barely distorted), but the crossed line arching over the canvas surface, fool the eye into perceiving an illusionary third dimension. These paintings seem to bulge, gathering bulk at the apex of the cross or arc.

One double set of canvases (each composed of two panels again) fills another wall. Set side by side, they hold single arched lines pointing toward an imaginary center on the wall. Again, the perimeter is tampered with, each “rectangular” canvas altered to lean out at the sides slightly. The combined effect of arc against irregular shape forces an illusion of form, the “bulge” of the piece following along the arc of the line.

Mangold has managed to infuse a new idea, if not a new direction, into familiar themes. Slightly muddying his colors, refining their tones away from primary overcast completely, Mangold presents himself with a clear field for his bisecting lines. With such an uncluttered surface to work on, he is free to deal with his essential idea—but it must be understood that these works fail to penetrate beyond Minimalist confines. As such, it is refreshing to see even the input of simple distortion disturb the easily recognizable trademarks. However valid the original impact of Minimalist painting (and sculpture), current reactions point away from such highly refined esoteric themes. Content has sneaked back into painting and sculpture in unabashed abundance: Mangold seems strangely anachronistic faced with such turbulent new input.

Deborah Perlberg