San Francisco

Robert Ryman

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Robert Ryman spreads white paint across his mostly squarish supports as if to make a hyperbole of essential surface. His new “Charter Series,” designed as a “meditative room” for Gerald S. Elliott’s apartment in the Hancock Tower in Chicago, interprets the plain monochrome surface and its few, carefully adjusted enclosures like a social dancer showing you the mystifying thrusts in a rudimentary box step. Each painting is a fabricated fact, a virtuoso performance of refined contrasts, a meticulously blank facade in which nuance of tone and assembly is everything.

Ryman’s five paintings aren’t images. They require a minimum encounter of 30 seconds to make any kind of dent. Inspect the surface and you see a wealth of detail seemingly more unusual and quirkier than its sum; turn away (or leave the room) and you wonder if you saw anything particular at all. The aphoristic sweep makes the clearest

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