New York

Norman Bluhm

Ace Gallery

One of the most curious things about the “second generation” Abstract Expressionists is the need so many of them felt to renounce the very tradition from which they emerged. One could imagine the mature work of Al Held or Alfred Leslie having been made by artists who had never seen or heard of Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning. There are exceptions to be sure—Joan Mitchell upheld the tradition, and so has Norman Bluhm. Indeed, though Bluhm’s most recent paintings are as impossible to extrapolate from his works of the ’50s as Held’s or Leslie’s, Bluhm, unlike those artists, has renounced nothing. His art has simply become so much more inclusive, so much more historically informed, that it easily subsumes everything it has ever been within a grander, more ambitious pattern.

Bluhm’s most recent exhibition presented a selection of paintings dating from 1986 (the year of his last New York

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