New York

Robert Beauchamp

Monique Knowlton Gallery

When Neo-Minimalism arrives, which no doubt will be soon—for history and the manipulation of the market are one and the same these ambiguously avant-garde days—one of the neoexpressionist survivors will be Robert Beauchamp. Like Flack, he offers a tasteful expressionism, but it is mature. That is, Beauchamp manages to do two things with it that are not conventionally associated with it: he uses it to convey a state of postanxiety (reflecting his stay in the South?) if not unequivocal happiness, and through the figures that seem to effervesce out of the paint, he turns it into a kind of testing ground for a minimal unit of paint mark, on the order of a phoneme or morpheme (ideally their hybrid). The sphincter of “expressive” speech is not quite uncontrollable here. Irrepressible paint is controlled by spontaneous image, often demonic but always melodious. The “clowning” artist and his “monsters” have a wonderful comic air to them, an air at once innocent and knowing. Above all, there is a good breeding with which paint seems to cover its own dirty tracks and invention to disguise itself; here, tastefulness is at the service of an important vision.

The dream figure that greeted the viewer at the gallery entrance—something other than the chunks of “expression” in the paintings—shows us clearly what Beauchamp’s about: a sense of pleasurable mystery, in which the persona floats free of its empirical moorings to become an independent poetry. Beauchamp’s portraits do not show the harsh understanding of the early ones by Oskar Kokoschka or Jean Dubuffet, but their tasteful sense of turmoil has its own authenticity.

Donald Kuspit