new-york

“Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction, 1964–1980”

The Studio Museum in Harlem

At first glance, this show appears to be a simple survey of the dominant modes of postwar abstraction. In one corner hangs Melvin Edwards’s Cotton Hangup, 1965, an expressionist sculpture of black steel, tools, and rebar; in another stretches Joe Overstreet’s Saint Expedite A, 1971, a post-Minimalist rigging of green-, black-, and redpainted canvases. Barbara Chase-Riboud similarly reimports reference into Minimal forms: Her Bathers, 1972, consists of a field of low rectilinear aluminum volumes that ripples like a bed of wave-polished rocks, with green-gray silk splays suggesting seaweed exposed at low tide. On the wall nearby hovers William T. Williams’s Trane, 1969, a tour de force of Op/Minimal painting, in an eye-shocking palette, that seems to be shearing apart at its center. Over it all presides Al Loving’s untitled banner of batiklike dyed canvas strips, from around 1975. Evoking

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