Color is frightening. From the color of one’s skin to the color of a painting, it can stir up unlikely obsessions: all kinds of irrational responses tend to explode without provocation. Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko have two things in common: wide expanses of color and the proclivity for people to deface their paintings more than any other Abstract Expressionist work.
John Yau has published books of poetry, fiction, and criticism. His latest poetry publications include a book of poems, Further Adventures in Monochrome (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), and the chapbook, Egyptian Sonnets (Rain Taxi, 2012). His most recent monographs are Catherine Murphy (Rizzoli, 2016), the first book on the artist, and Richard Artschwager: Into the Desert (Black Dog Publishing, 2015). He has also written monographs on A. R. Penck, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. In 1999, he started Black Square Editions, a small press devoted to poetry, fiction, translation, and criticism. He was the Arts Editor for the Brooklyn Rail (2007–2011) before he began writing regularly for Hyperallergic. He is a Professor of Critical Studies at Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers University).
Single Point Perspective: Catherine Murphy’s Perfect Storm
Stylistically innovative painters outnumber those who have reassessed the accepted conventions of painting. For the most part, artists engaged with issues of style accept certain conventions, particularly regarding spatiality, while those who reevaluate painting find ways to undo assumptions and received tropes. Catherine Murphy belongs in the latter group. Her painting, “Snowflakes (for Joyce Robins)” (2011) is square, a format we associate with high modernist abstraction and artists such as Robert Ryman and Agnes Martin.
Tilting at Windmills: Joe Zucker as Don Quixote
Joe Zucker is the most inventive artist of his generation, which includes Elizabeth Murray, Mel Bochner, Joan Snyder and his longtime friend, Chuck Close, and perhaps the most misunderstood. One reason for the confusion is that reviewers have often focused on Zucker’s inventiveness with materials and processes without recognizing that they are inseparable from the work’s content. He is far more than an idiosyncratic formalist.
Color Visions: The Sanford Wurmfeld Experience
For many, Sanford Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966 – 2013 at the Hunter College/Times Square Gallery (February 15–April 30, 2013) will be an introduction to an artist, who, according to the art historian William C. Agee, “may well be the best little-known painter in New York today.” There are many reasons for this oversight, but I want to single out three.
Before We Are Completely Swept Away: Joshua Marsh’s Recent Paintings
The changes that Joshua Marsh has made since his debut show at Jeff Bailey in 2010 — which I reviewed for the Brooklyn Rail (October 2010) — should be mentioned. In As If, his second exhibition at the same gallery, he shows drawings for the first time — thirty works on clay-coated paper measuring 5 ½ x 7 inches. Marsh relies on scribbling and shading to locate forms. Some drawings are airy and open, while others are dark and dense, where he has gone over an area countless times.
Catherine Murphy’s Challenge
This is Catherine Murphy’s first exhibition with Peter Freeman — and the inaugural show of gallery’s large, new space (March 14–April 27, 2013). Although Murphy has been showing regularly in New York since the early ’70s, this is the first time that she has had a space big enough to comfortably display her work, a multi-panel work like “Knots” (2009), a suite of 15 modestly scaled paintings, along with more than a dozen paintings and drawings, with the largest painting ranging six feet in height or width. I felt like the work finally had space to breathe.
Philip Guston’s Line
There is still a story to be told about Philip Guston (1913–1980) and Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), who met at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles in 1929, and were expelled the following year for handing out a broadside that ridiculed the English faculty for their conservatism. Pollock was later readmitted to the school, but Guston never went back. It is a story about acceptance and rejection.
The Connoisseurship of Al Held
Years ago, Al Held invited me to his place in Boiceville, New York, to see two large paintings that he had all but completed. They were immense, brightly colored works in which geometric forms floated, weightless.
Breaking the Postmodern Creed: Thomas Nozkowski’s Unimaginable Paintings and Drawings
By 1974, Thomas Nozkowski had made two decisions – he would paint on widely available, 16 x 20-inch, prepared canvas boards, and everything he painted would come from personal experience.
Peter Williams’s Body, Opened and Closed
Peter Williams — who is sixty and black — is having his first solo exhibition of paintings in New York. And not one to ever play it safe, he is exhibiting two distinct bodies of work at Foxy Production (February 15, 2013–March 23, 2013) — three smallish abstract paintings and five large figurative ones — which share a palette of pinks, violets, blues, turquoises, reds, greens and yellows.
Somewhere in the Back of the Stars Is the Poet Alfred Starr Hamilton
I bought The Poems of Alfred Starr Hamilton shortly after it came out and had it in my possession for many years. Somewhere in the midst of moving from one apartment to another it got lost. So when the publishers Ben Estes and Alan Felsenthal announced that their press, The Song Cave, was going to publish A Dark Dreambox of Another Kind: The Poems of Alfred Starr Hamilton, I preordered a copy. There was something about Hamilton’s poetry that I wanted to experience again.
Rafael Ferrer’s Gift of Two Dried-Up Pineapples
For those who were unable to go to the Lancaster Museum of Art in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and see RAFAEL FERRER, Works on Paper, A Survey 1952–2012 (September 7, 2012–November 11, 2012), Ferrer’s exhibiion, Calor at the Adam Baumgold gallery will have to do.