A Gyroscopic Equilibrium: Robert Mangold at Pace
Robert Mangold: Paintings and Works on Paper, 2013 – 2017
May 6 to June 17, 2017
510 West 25th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues
New York City, pacegallery.com
Reductive rather than Minimal, strictly speaking, the art of Robert Mangold continues to induce a gyroscopic equilibrium of formal elements in relation to one another. That the relationship of part to whole is how to test the valid authority of line in and on a planar surface, which in turn must hold its own in respect to the supporting cut relief:—this composite of essentials remains constant throughout the body of work, however varied the rational format. This exhibition in particular is indicative of shaped canvases treated as framing devices of all sorts, some of which result in forced compensation for a cut hole’s demanding attention. More than with his past shows, this aggregate of formats puts the artist at risk of losing it all if the drawing isn’t just right—neither merely accommodating the frame within its bounds, nor being irrelevantly dramatic. A test of constraints, this show sharpens the viewer’s critical eye.
Yellow Extended Ring Frame, 2014, for instance, proves that an eccentric format need not be a liability but can be a challenge to composition. Given a strong shape, the response must be in kind: the set-up puts pressure on, to come up with an equally dynamical color and line, if the entirety is to cohere. Imagine a kind of hippodrome in a bright cadmium yellow, round which lines twist as they run their course. The elements of line planar surface and relief do indeed all pull together even as they remain in tension. And something else rewards viewing: close up, one sees the rehearsals of line in approximations of the curve in undisguised preliminary drawing, unaffected—not pathetic, not rhetorical.
In this assortment of works on view, drawn squares within a field contrast with the meanders favored, to raise the issue of the formal dualities Mangold has at his disposal: positive and negative shape, inside and outside edge—these occasion highly contrastive dualities. Possibilities are tested, not all are pursued.
Puncturing most of the works are rectangular cutouts, generally symmetrical with respect to the frame, yet a few are asymmetrical in size and position. Taken together, they represent the sort of composition made familiar through orthodox modern abstract art. Mangold shows his reductive strength by adhering to the proposition that abstraction is the fundament of form. Examples of this loyalty are to be found in an ochre painting, Yellow Double Square Loop, 2015, and the acidic Two Open Squares within a Yellow Area, 2016.
But there is a reason why Double Red Square Frame B, 2015, has pride of place in this display. The perfectly poised, yet inventive, drawing captures the principle of calligraphy that is line’s special attribute, and interacts with the dulled rose pigment applied to the surface, streaked and stained enough to manifest painting as such. Given the eccentricity of format, it should not work as well as it does; yet the rounded ends of the diptych’s outer corners, if anything, help to draw attention across the panels. The result is miraculous. Or, in Aquinas’s terms, integral, a harmonious and radiant whatness.