As ever with Mr. Noland, his
exhibition at Ameringer Yohe of nine new canvases is in equal measure
elegant and enigmatic. In his last show at the gallery, the artist revisited
his trademark "target" format, first seen in the late 1950s.
Now it is the turn of stripes, which became his idiom ten years later:
emphatically horizontal bands of solid color, posited in radical chromatic
relationships with one another.
Mr. Noland's own rhetoric,
and that of his formalist champions, speaks about optical hedonism.
His style and achievement were pitted, historically, against the hard,
cold, logic of the minimalists. But while this new show deploys sumptuous
colors, ranging from the pumped-up synthetic to the shamelessly pretty
and pastel, it is hard to get these paintings to work in the way one
assumes they are supposed to. How is one to resist the banal conclusion
that they are delightful graphic designs?
Scale helps. In their bid
to envelop the gaze, these canvases are heroically horizontal. At least
double-square, they sometimes stretch in width to more than three times
their height. But getting the eye horizontal doesn't mean these paintings
have their wicked way with it. Bands of color are hardly more prone
to blend on the retina than Seurat's dots; they insist on their autonomy.
At best, if stared at long enough, there's a bit of optical buzz, but
- to pursue the bedroom analogy - it is hardly as if the earth moves.
Mr. Noland's paintings are
"about" color relationships rather than actually embodying
them: They are beautifully printed scores, not symphonies. This artist,
who has suffered for his formalism, is actually not formalist enough.
Revisiting his own high-modernist halcyon days at a time when *de rigeur*
ironists are doing the same, Mr. Noland has become an inadvertent postmodernist.
Zimmer in the Dead Sea 2003
epoxy resin and photos on wood, 47 x 51 inches
Courtesy Margaret Thatcher Projects
I first became aware of Markus Linnenbrink at the Hammer in Los Angeles
last spring, where a floor-to-ceiling mural filled the UCLA museum's
entrance. This stunningly audacious décor, "Myself Outside,"
fused the yin and yang of painterly abstraction: the stripe and the
drip. It was droll, canny, and felicitous in its balance of semiotics
Mr. Linnenbrink's third solo
show at Margaret Thatcher Projects, however, disappointed me. If only
he could heed the classic modernist dictum that less is more; instead,
the artist seems to be hedging his bets with a variety of strategies
and confections. It is not that there aren't winners on hand. In "Ladylove"
(2003) strips of bright, colored, epoxy resin form a beaded surface,
each strip artfully seeming to drip its way to a point. In "Zimmer
in the Dead Sea" (2003), horizontal lines of epoxy, tentatively
zigzagging and densely clustered (at places almost sandwiching), shimmer
or dribble over faintly legible collage materials to intriguing effect.
It is the array of that ideas
is unbecoming. Whether the artist means to show off, is unsure where
to go, or is placing his disparate efforts in clever-clever (Richterian)
quote marks is unclear. This market-stall act is decidedly gauche from
an artist of such proven poise.
Mark Takamichi Miller
Prom Queen (Horizontal) 2003 [detail]
oil on canvas, 60 x 72 inches
Courtesy Triple Candie
Jennifer Riley's contribution
to the stripe renaissance is to be found in an eclectic and bizarrely
titled group exhibition at Triple Candie. "The Sentimental Favorite:
abstract painting," is like the Harlem industrial space that hosts
it: sprawling, rough at the edges, and quite a trip.
Ms. Riley, who is represented
by three large canvases in this five person show, appears to be the
only artist who can plausibly be described as abstract. It is also difficult
to believe that abstraction is, or ever has been, "the" sentimental
favorite. But so what? The true selection principle is that these are
emerging artists with some reputation in their hometowns: New Orleans,
San Francisco, Seattle, and, in Ms. Riley's case, Boston.
It's worth the detour, incidentally,
for another painter in the show, the emphatically figural Mark Takamichi
Miller, whose fast, thick, gooey action paintings read like family snapshots
caught in atomic meltdown. In contrast to these gushing fountains of
virtuosity, Ms. Riley's sparse, introverted compositions reveal their
quirky individualism as if by micro-irrigation. They pay a kind of warped
homage to the earnest mystical abstraction of Agnes Martin, the Zen
nun of stripes. Ms. Riley, however, is devoted to what are more like
Viva Activa 2003 and Multiflex 2003
both oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches and 70 x 84 inches
installation shot at Triple Candie
She is often symmetrical,
but more in the breach than the observance. In "Multiflex"
(2003), color schemes seem suspended between the random and the sensical.
Typically of the artist, the eye is beckoned towards an ever-elusive
logic. Ms. Riley's subtle touch creates fluid, almost sinewy lines.
Strangely flesh-toned, these can almost misread as stretched stockings
(connecting with the funky Mr Takamichi Miller after all). It is as
if by stealth this gentle subversive is claiming back - for nature,
for the body - the hardest edge of abstraction.