new-york

Leon Kossoff

Mitchell-Innes & Nash | Chelsea

THE FIRST THING THAT STRIKES one about Leon Kossoff's paintings is the heaviness and density of the surface; the second is the peculiar insubstantiality of the depicted forms, in spite of all that paint. The figure is reduced to a luminous shape with a few dark, shifting contours. Kossoff applies his medium crudely and thickly, with expressionistic violence and abandon (or is it forced, even labored spontaneity, studied abruptness? There is a kind of weariness to the handling, almost as though Kossoff were overfamiliar with it). The trick of the paintings—it's quite obvious in the figure of Jacinto, 1995, and the head of John I, 1998—is to make the blurry outline function as positive space and to turn flesh into negative space. The indefinite is made starkly definite, the definite precariously indefinite. (It's not unlike what Willem de Kooning did, albeit with less color and

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the September 2000 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.