New York

Walter Anderson/Arthur Dove

Luise Ross Gallery

Both Walter Anderson and Arthur Dove can be counted among the scores of 20th-century American artists who have been especially drawn to the medium of watercolor. Each had a distinctive way of using the medium to represent inner truths based on the close observation of nature and the external world. Pairing the celebrated Modernist Arthur Dove with the relatively obscure, Mississippi-based Walter Anderson. this show brought out the formal and thematic affinities between their separate bodies of work.

Anderson’s work evinces a total absorption in the watercolor process, and a sensitivity to the medium’s exigencies of execution. His watercolors are characterized by the expressive handling of wet and dry brush that has been .associated with American watercolorists since John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer. In Crabs And Rushes, 1940–45, Anderson uses wet, loose brush strokes to create luminously colorful passages, endowing the image of two crabs ambling along a beach with a brilliant intensity.

Anderson relies on patterning as a formal principle to confer order on the random character of observed reality in works such as Cars + Bicycles, ca. 1945, in which he creates a four-tiered composition by means of overlapping repetition. The overall effect is reminiscent of a hieratic frieze. But in other works, such as Crab, 1949, and Snails on Stumps, 1960, the visual dynamism of Anderson’s work breaks through the formal constraints he imposes. In these works he seems to move effortlessly between realism and abstraction, privileging the relativity of vision over empirical observation.

Though relatively unknown, Anderson’s work held up credibly beside Dove’s. Both artists frequently take their inspiration from the sea. In the works by Dove exhibited here, he reveals an exacting control of the fluid properties and brilliant color characteristic of the watercolor medium. Deftly balancing immediacy of execution with compositional clarity, he lends his bold simplifications of appearances solidity of form and freedom of movement.

Ronny Cohen