Patrick Heron

Tate Modern

Patrick Heron is at heart a modernist in the tradition of Roger Fry and Clement Greenberg: the seventy-odd pictures on view at the Tate Gallery charted a logic of space, color, and rhythm evolving over six decades. There was no postmodern irony here, no heavyweight subject matter, not even a hint of concerns beyond the two-dimensional arena of the canvas itself. It is this attitude that allows Heron to assert in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition that the decorative is “the height of art.” The painter’s entire enterprise represents a struggle to keep alive Matisse’s vision of art meant to soothe the eye and mind. The question that remains is whether Heron hasn’t just reupholstered Matisse’s proverbial armchair.

If the Tate’s show failed to reveal an artist whose work established him among the international giants of postwar abstraction, David Sylvester’s wise selection nevertheless

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