New York

Ruth Root

Andrew Kreps Gallery

Read the critics on Ruth Root, and the names dropped are Philip Guston, Ellsworth Kelly, Piet Mondrian, and Richard Tuttle. The Guston references derive from the waggish strategy by which Root made her earlier color-block abstractions self-conscious: Little pairs of eyes peeped through what one had assumed to be a flat, nonillusionistic span of paint, and lit cigarettes protruded from the seams where colors touched. It was a gimmick, albeit a clever one, and in her recent show Root wisely rested it. Without the sexy, anthropomorphic gestures toward satiety, wariness, and contemplation, her abstractions (still enamel on wafer-thin, shaped aluminum panels) were left to speak for themselves in the old language of grid and hue.

In this realm of “pure” abstraction, the debt to Kelly’s color/form juxtapositions looms especially large. There’s ample urban boogie-woogie in the way the aluminum’s

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