New York

Robin Winters

Jeffrey Hoffeld & Company

As certain artists expand upon an earlier body of work that is perhaps sloppy and confrontational, they mute its antiesthetic edge in favor of refinement. But for all the “improvement,” its previous coarseness and fixed inconsistency are often sadly missed. It is in such a way that Robin Winters’ new paintings, which are undoubtedly as masterful and as elegant as any he has produced to date, make one wish that all promising young artists would not mature into the middle-aged-ness of ”great" art. (The broad esthetic jump from old to new was pointed up by the inclusion of Metropolitan Acquaintances, a large framed triptych of 105 drawings dating from 1974 that was the highlight of the show) However, if we now describe Winters’ work as somewhat tame, the domestication of this wild youth has revealed him to have an unexpected command of composition and color as well as of a broader range of materials that includes Rhoplex and raw pigments. The result is an exquisitely sensual surface that is somehow smart enough to qualify the restraining presence of the artist’s hand as preferable to the current trend of gross expressionistic flourishes. And the sharp intelligence that informed his earlier work is still very much in evidence in the determinate quality of Winters’ funky little personal symbols. The personalities of the many faces that populate his paintings—a basic sign language of spontaneous facial expressions—are caricaturized surface projections of inner thoughts and feelings. Somewhat like the masks of James Ensor, the generic simplicity of their features makes them at once universally relatable and subjectively personal.

The visual gratification of these paintings certainly propels Winters away from the interpretative difficulty of his early Conceptual performances. I don’t wish to say, however, that his new work is a pale, pretty shadow of its former genius. For all its decorative appeal, it is far from empty, and what it has gained in many ways outweighs the loss of its edge.

Carlo McCormick