new-york

Al Held

Robert Miller Gallery

Al Held has never been given his full due, yet as this exhibition of Expressionist abstractions from 1953-55 makes evident, his stature continues to grow. Held is a painter of tremendous force, and, equally important, of subtlety. In these early gestural canvases he restrains and structures his energy, keeping his painterly athletics from degenerating into unadulterated razzle-dazzle. What is special about these works is not their activity but their architecture; not their crudity, but their lyricism. Anticipating his migration from gesture to geometry, these paintings tend toward stability, even in their assertive, at times brute, painterliness. Indeed, the piling up of paint—it is fairly troweled on in places, becoming relieflike, even quasi sculptural—seems an act of monumentalization.

Painted after Held’s return from Paris, these works seem self-consciously American: direct and declarative

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