New York

View of “Robert Mangold,” 2014.

View of “Robert Mangold,” 2014.

Robert Mangold

View of “Robert Mangold,” 2014.

For this commanding exhibition, Robert Mangold presented a group of ten paintings (accompanied by twelve drawings) executed between 2011 and 2014. Characterized, most saliently, by the wide holes cut into their centers, the spare, donut-shaped canvases explicitly recall the artist’s “Ring Paintings,” 2011, and “Frame Paintings,” 1983–85, and find him continuing the exploration of the fundamental elements of composition—of line, shape, and color—that he undertook in those series.

The works are imposing; the largest, Angled Ring I, 2011, has dimensions exceeding eight by eight feet. Perhaps as a result of this scale, they read as three-dimensional containers of space, almost like sculptures; the breached central portions welcome the viewer’s gaze and lead it into the liminal space of the caesura, and then into absence. Yet this emphasis on materiality, on the play of the presence and absence of raw mass, is undermined by a simultaneous attention to the pictorial. Mangold has drawn on the canvases in graphite and black pencil, adding spirals, overlapping circles, and—most important—horizontal and diagonal lines. The last of these imply one-point perspective, an illusionary space that is itself undercut by the artist’s placement of the vanishing point directly in the midst of the central void. The resultant dynamism—the work’s oscillation between illusionistic picture and sculptural frame, between foreground and background—requires the viewer to continuously refocus visually and psychologically. Yet these works, with their calm, almost Apollonian appearance, do not, in fact, lack playfulness or ironic lightness. Like a child cutting colored paper with scissors, the artist seems to take pleasure in his rupturing of the picture. He brings curiosity to bear on his investigation of the territory between two- and three-dimensionality.

The colors in these works, ranging from yellow, ocher, orange, and Pompeian red and blue to acidic green, are applied in watery acrylics, as transparent and delicate as pastels. The show’s only truly colorless painting, Framed Square with Open Center II, 2013, has been washed with gray, granting it distinctive architectural associations. The blend of monumentality, order, and depth, as well as the play of perspectival diagonal lines, three staggered circles, and a central cutout square, lead us into a habitable space, a perfect optical corridor that could belong to a painting by Piero della Francesca or to a room by James Turrell, a space for completion without ornament. Meanwhile, Extended Frame A, 2014, the sole rectangular painting in the exhibition, features two continuous lines undulating across its wide surface. These markings counterintuitively bring to mind Baroque sculpture, and specifically the softness of the sensuous drapery of the clothing in Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Beata Ludovica Albertoni. The contrast between the sinuous drawing and the empty space ignited the minimal, almost mystical silence of this exhibition with eroticism.

Ida Panicelli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.