New York

Jamie Dalglish

Braathevn-Gallozzi Contemporary Art

Jamie Dalglish epitomizes the crisis in abstract painting. Each idea (allover markings, contrast of high-key color, figures that are almost iconic yet nonrepresentational) in Dalglish’s work has been in currency for at least 30 years—each has been well-spent by Pollock, Newman, Krasner and Gottlieb. Not that novelty is essential in itself, but it seems that Dalglish’s renegotiation of old territory is listless. uncommitted. As Jean-Luc Godard recently responded to Paul Schrader (who had approached him to admit that he had lifted some Godard scenes from A Married Woman for his American Gigolo), “It’s not what you lift . . . but where you take it.”

The question behind every Dalglish is, where can you take the ideas of abstract art? One place a lot of painters are going today is toward relief—painting has come off the wall, quite literally, because relief clarifies the issues of figure/ground, depth/flatness. But are these issues as much as conventions? They don’t seem to compel Dalglish, though he goes through their motions. For him, they’re non-issues, conventionally treated. He has painted himself into a cul-de-sac. Where can you go when you’re cornered?

To be different, Dalglish paints on larger canvases; they’re square. This is the big picture of the ’60s, when paintings were mammoth, confident, assured of their place in the modernist space. But bigger is not necessarily better, although it’s the only definite move Dalglish is able to make.

The surface of the paintings as well has an over-inflated sense. He divides the canvas usually by diagonal bisection, each half mirroring the other in some attempt at reciprocity or symmetry. Or like positive and negative, thesis and antithesis, in search of a synthesis. What’s the whole picture? There’s no synthesis, just a schizophrenia of abstraction.

Dalglish’s painting is symptomatic of the crisis of modernism, a canvas where the only dynamic is to look at itself looking at itself. No reference to a world outside itself. The only law: diminishing returns.

Carrie Rickey