New York

Don Van Vliet

Michael Werner | New York

Set off by the front gallery’s Biedermeier proportions, bathed by the softly filtered southern light, Don Van Vliet’s semi-automatic abstractions looked beautiful, neurasthenic, old-fashioned, and European. Here and there, the artist’s organic palette and willfully skittish, stubbily fingered surfaces reminded me of Georg Baselitz’s “Hero” paintings from the ’60s, which were seen in this very space two seasons ago. Cactus Blanch and Wrought Iron Cactus, both 1991, with their veggie-juice-bar colors and implied metamorphoses, are both cases in point. I got the feeling that Van Vliet jabbed paint around with the alert industriousness of a prospector who wants neither to miss a vein of ore, nor to risk damaging one. This native Californian was known primarily as the musician Captain Beefheart until he became a painter. He strikes me as an artist who believes in the ideal of a “pure” eye and

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