new-york

Sylvia Plimack Mangold

Brooke Alexander

Analyzing Van Gogh’s Crows over the Wheat Field, Meyer Schapiro describes the lines of perspective as “the paths of Van Gogh’s impetuous impulse toward the beloved object,” then goes on to note that in this painting as in most of the later work “this flight to a goal is rarely unobstructed or fulfilled.” In Sylvia Plimack Mangold’s canvases from the early ’70s a similar dialectic is at work: a pronounced convergence in the floorboards she typically rendered is frustrated by various painted-in devices—a mirror, rulers that “prove” space is not shrinking though it appears to be, etc. At the same time the compulsion of Mangold’s need for arrival is reinforced by things like the rulers, measuring as if to pin down what was by definition forever in recession, a point always vanishing.

When, several years ago, Mangold began painting night landscapes in a style that exchanged soft-focus mass for

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