New York

Pierre Soulages

Haim Chanin Fine Arts/Robert Miller Gallery

The moody scumbling, planar layers, and primarily vertical format of Pierre Soulages’s walnut-stain works on paper, a selection of which were exhibited recently at Haim Chanin Fine Arts, signal a strong affinity with the paintings of Mark Rothko. Soulages uses dense black and dark, diffuse brown exclusively, whereas Rothko also deployed luminous colors, and he sometimes introduces sudden “horizons” of piercing white, but the two artists share the same peculiar blend of intimacy and what Roger Fry called “cosmic sensibility”—a somewhat labored sense of the epic, inseparable from a search for emotional paydirt. Both artists strike it rich, though the feelings they concentrate on are different—our sensation of insignificance in the face of the immeasurable in Soulages (I once described his works as “negatively sublime”), and an overromanticized sense of tragedy in Rothko. The latter is a

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