23 East 73 Street, New York
August 6-22, 2003
Carolyn Harris Flamboya
2002 watercolor, 10-3/4 x 18-3/4 inches
End of season group shows
are a little like summer movies. They have the advantage of setting
out simply to please. In a category-loving art climate, the last exhibition
usually relaxes the categories. Works tend to be smaller, allowing us
to look at art scaled for actual rooms, not museum spaces. Galleries
are more willing to chance work they are not committed to. The publicity
machine gears down. After months of generating operatic press releases,
galleries puts their feet up and let items on the wall summon their
Fine and surprising things surface in these closing medleys. While this
exhibition spares us the artificial labors of a "theme show,"
its focus on a single medium-watercolor- provides continuity among the
disparate sensibilities and ranges of ambition that are part of its
Most of the work on show is by members of Zeuxis, a loose affiliation
of artists devoted to still life painting. Many of them exhibit regularly
in artist-owned and/or university galleries. The better known names-Garth
Evans, Andrew Forge, Lois Dodd, Robert DeNiro, Sr.-are on loan from
other galleries. Three come from Kouros' own stable of artists.
Things begin with two paintings by George Constant, an early modernist
best known in his lifetime as an etcher and engraver. Here is a rare
look at his gifts as an abstract painter and a return to one fecund
moment in the history of modern art. Petunias, a 1952 watercolor, offers
a bouquet of forms that recall his contemporary, Baziotes. There is
something of Sheila Delauney in these shapes as well. Field of Flowers,
c. 1960, is a fluid, calligraphic dance of all-over color, dispersed
with an energetic and graceful hand. Constant's approach has its antecedent
in Pollock's Lavender Mist , which itself points back to Monet's waterlilies.
Contrast between figure and ground disappear. We look straight into
the surface of a multi-colored field, its elements woven together with
delicate strands of black ink.
Immediately opposite, counterposed to Constant, is the vertical Study
for Venice with Bridge by watercolorist Jorge Eduardo. The rigor of
the study gives a useful clue to the hyper-realism for which Eduardo
is celebrated in his native Brazil. He brings the intensity of an archivist's
scrutiny to even the smallest detail. Eduardo has built a career recording
Brazil's loveliest locales and the architecture of its colonial past.
Here, he turns his concentration on a typical view of Venice. For all
his command of the medium, his affinity for local color and light, and
his ease with architectural detail, the painting seems more a scene
prepared for tourists than a personal response. Technique can sometimes
become a bludgeon that intimidates the audience into confusing a sense
of place with mere items in sight.
By contrast, Joseph Byrne's
four diminutive tree studies are lively and personal. They make no claim
to be other than what they are: liquid caresses of a tree trunk. One
especially delicious rendering recalls John Marin's warning against
reading things into paintings: "There's the daisy-you don't rave
over or read messages into it. You just look at that bully little flower.
That's enough." One bully little tree trunk is plenty.
John Goodrich's high spirited
contributions are a surprise. Gone is the broody quality I've come to
associate with his oil painting. Both still lifes here, attentive to
the effects of light and air, have summer written all over them. Other
unexpected pleasures are the lush, ebullient landscapes by Carolyn Harris;
the startling subtlety of Louise Matthiasdottir's subdued consideration
of the Hudson River, less showy than her usual chromatism but with greater
depth; and David Dewey's darkling portrayal of a Belfast street on the
shadow side of sunlight. Ruth Miller is always a happy find.
Phyllis Floyd, founder of
Zeuxis, offers lean, reduced figure compositions done on site in Madison
and Bryant parks. Victor Pesce's works, each focusing on a singe object
afloat on a field of color, emphasize how much the appeal of his painting
resides in his eye for placement, independent of the characteristic
weight and texture of his oils. Robert DeNiro, Sr., who died in 1993,
is represented by a pleasant, neo-Matissean trifle Teapot and Vase/Flowers.
But name recognition lends heft to what is almost a studio throw-away,
slight in structure and technique. (Its $16,000 thumb-in-your-eye sticker
is an instructive moment in art world pricing.) Nell Blaine's Darkening
Sky, Gloucester, just as pricey, provides more to look at.
Garth Evans Warren
Street #8 1998, watercolor, 22 x 30 inches
I have always enjoyed Andrew
Forge's writing more than his painting. Elegant and spare, his work
has struck me as having an air of the podium about it-a distillation
of style-conscious theories with little blood in them. Even so, I was
drawn to the untitled watercolor submitted here. Discreet, luminous
marks, arranged in repetitive, seemingly stenciled rows, drift across
the paper. Shifting gossamer planes overlay and penetrate each other,
massed in the upper left and sliding, in delicate glissando, toward
invisibility at the lower right. It sends me away to rethink my responses
to this most refined technician.
One of the true satisfactions
here is the opportunity to see Garth Evans. Known most widely as a sculptor,
his watercolors are small astonishments. Two of them hang near a window
in the upstairs gallery, a turn of the head away from Forge. It is an
inspired placement. The works of both men share a similar sense of sequence,
of structure arising from spaced intervals-like notes of a musical scale
(Forge) or interstices between overlapping geological structures (Evans).
Both make the most of transparency while letting color drive their compositions.
Similarities end there but
how does one describe the difference? Or the quiet pleasure of Evans'
inventiveness, his lyricism, contained in a geometry of his own devising?
This is painting that has to be viewed up close. At a distance, color
and outline assert themselves easily. But the magical subtleties of
surface and errantry of lines dissolving into worked paper reveal themselves
only on close embrace. It is hard not to lean just a little closer to
one particularly enigmatic, darksome piece just to kiss it.
more images and another view of this exhibition, see David Cohen's review