New York

Richard Pousette-Dart

Marisa Del Re Gallery

Mystic or not, Richard Pousette-Dart makes some of the most sensuous paintings to be seen these days. And this at a time when there must be more paint per inch of exhibited canvas than ever before in history. Tom Wolfe once joked about getting out rulers to determine who was the flattest minimalist of all. Now that the situation is reversed, we’re going to need yardsticks. Pousette-Dart uses a lot of paint, too. At times the pebbles of pigment (yes, this is pointillist technique) grow so dense you find yourself checking the floor to see if any have been knocked off yet. He doesn’t, however, fall into the trap of assuming that physical painting is simply tactile painting, as some currently popular painters do, sacrificing visual appeal for a high-pressured pitch to our sense of touch. Sight is just as crucial a sense in these works.

They are bold, primarily black-and-white, configurations—huge circles, squares within squares—whose clarity provides the tartness needed to “cut” the richness of the texture. The drama gets you from a distance; the surface holds you close up. And some of them do what your mother always fantasized about white-slavers: hypnotize you into compliance. In Mirror of Space, recessed squares suck an edging of lines—and the viewer—into a center like the maw of a vacuum cleaner, and the unraveling, centrifugal lines of Black Circle, Time are of the mesmerizing kind that Marcel Duchamp used in Anemic Cinema and that were supposedly outlawed on boxes of detergent as exerting too subliminal influence on the shopper.

With surefire ingredients like these, such paintings will never be lonely. When Pousette-Dart gives up some of the austerity of form, though, in favor of compositions of compartmentalized calligraphy (as he does, for instance, in Spirals by the Sea and Circle by the Falling Waters), the references become too private without really being intriguingly idiosyncratic; the work looks a bit too much like that of Adolph Gottlieb, and dated.

Jeanne Silverthorne