Monday, June 16, 2008

Two Painting Shows and the Old Guard

Last week I wrote about the Olafur Eliasson show at MOMA, my disappointment in which set me up for the pleasure of the Merz installation one floor above. As I continued on into the Modernist collection, the vibrancy of the paintings and the engagement of the viewers were palpable. Even the old guys – Pollock, De Kooning, Warhol – flashed a freshness that I had become been inured to, what with all the hoo-hah about politically and environmentally correct work that holds sway these days.

Painting of course will never die, it just has to compete with a much expanded set of offerings. The knockout show of the season is at the New Museum, where on the top floor Tomma Abts exhibits a group of small acrylic and oil on canvas paintings, each eighteen and seven-eights by fifteen inches. She says this is for her an inherent size, and that she works on each one for a long time, making changes to color and spatial definition. As you read the paintings, you can almost follow her decision process, and though these the paintings have no direct subject, their purity most reminds me of Vermeer’s luminous renditions of perfect space and light. This show continues through June 29.

Here’s another show and I regret that it has just closed. Claire Seidl’s exhibition at the Painting Center in Soho is still on-line if you’re quick, and there’s more on her website. Seidl’s work is abstract but appears to me to be landscape-based. The overlays of semi-opaque paint remind me of the outer wall of forests where you literally can’t see the forest for the trees. But beyond the wall, and behind these overlays, lie worlds of colored secrets, slowly revealed by slowly looking. The more time you spend with them, the more you will discover

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