Saturday, December 13, 2008

Al Held at Paul Kasmin

A must see, for anyone with an interest in abstract painting, is the Al Held exhibition at the Paul Kasmin Gallery from November 10, 2008 thru January 10, 2009.

The most recent painting in the Paul Kasmin exhibition was painted in 1985 well before the computer was a tool available to most artists. The paintings were drawn by hand using the same methods developed in the Renaissance. For example see the Paolo Uccello drawing at the bottom of the page, it was widely viewed in the late sixties.

Over the course of his career Held transformed the space for his paintings. Moving from a two dimensional plane, the locus of letter forms and plane geometry, into a deep three dimensional space where his geometric images reside in a flux of multiple vanishing points. In todays world of computer animation, it is almost to easy to forget Al Held's vision of an Euclidian world of forms was one which never existed to this extent and clarity as his paintings developed over the years.

In the post Abstract Expressionist era of the late 1960's Held made several large, minimal canvases loosely based upon letter forms, similar to "Yellow" from 1965 below but tougher. Held took a very tough stance towards his paintings at that time, the work was evolving towards a deep three dimensional space which went against the grain of the plane, against Greenberg's "flatness". I have a memory (but no jpegs) of several of these paintings, they were bluntly moving into three dimensions. The painting "Volta V" from 1977 is a more refined of the earlier black and white paintings I'm thinking about.

By the 1970's painting was in a disarray, the hidden restrictions of the old formalist dialog had collapsed and Held opened up his palette becoming one of the best colorists of the period.

The images are ordered chronologically.

Al Held
Roberta's Trip, 1985
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 96 x 144 inches (243,8 x 365,8 cm)

Al Held
Roberta's Trip F, 1985
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 31.5 x 29 inches (97,8 x 73,7 cm)

Al Held
The First Circle, 1985
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 60 x 198 inches (152,4 x 502,9 cm)

Al Held
Vorcex IV, 1984
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 108 x 108 inches (274,3 x 274,3 cm)

Al Held
Vorcex II, 1984
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 84 x 84 inches (213,4 x 213,4 cm)

Al Held
Trajans Edge II, 1982
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 84 x 84 inches (213,4 x 213,4 cm)

Al Held
S-E, 1979
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 84 x 84 inches (213,4 x 213,4 cm)

The following earlier works are not in the exhibition.

Al Held
Volta V, 1977
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 96 X 143 7/8 in. (243.6 X 365.4 cm)
Collection: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Al Held
Yellow, 1965
Acrylic on paper on canvas
Dimension: 22.64 X 30.5 in. (57.5 x 77.5 cm)
Collection: Kunstmuseum Basel, Legat Anne-Marie und Ernst Vischer-Wadler

Al Held
Taxi cab II, 1959
Synthetic polymer paint on paper laid on canvas
Dimension: 107 X 169 in. (272.0 x 429.0 cm)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia

Paolo Uccello (Italian, 1397-1475),
Perspective Study of a Chalice,
Pen and ink on paper
Dimension: 11.4 x 9.65 in. (29 x 24.5 cm)
Gabinetto dei Disegni, Uffizi, Florence.

All images Copyright © Estate of Al Held/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York or their respective owners.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dan Colen - Miracle on 34th Street

Stellan Holm Gallery has a group show titled "The Unforgiven" which is on exhibition from November 8 through December 6.

In the back of the gallery there is a very large, almost white painting by Dan Colen, "Miracle on 34th Street". It is a miracle.

It is one of the best paintings by a young artist I have ever seen. The grayish white Olitski I recently saw at Paul Kasmin pales by comparison. It is in a class with Monet.

Forget about drawing a conclusion from the jpeg below, "Miracle on 34th Street" does not reproduce at all.

It must be seen in person.

Just go look at it, forget about "what it's about" and just look. This is what painting, in it's purest form, is all about, it is a transforming visual experience.

Dan Colen
Miracle on 34th Street
2008, Oil on canvas
93x184 inches, 236.2 x 467.3 cm

The Unforgiven features new works by Jason Brooks, Dan Colen, Till Gerhard, Nate Lowman, Anselm Reyle and Aaron Young, with works by Dan Attoe, William S. Burroughs, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Steven Parrino, Richard Prince, Andy Warhol and Christopher Wool. (Note, the new works are only from living artists, it's a technicality)