art news & reviews & Interviews. jeff bergman, editor

105 – Year End – Lewis and Krasner

AlabamaII

To end the year I have a few straightforward remarks about the year that has passed as well as a short review.  I enjoyed traveling to see the Clock at the Walker Art Museum.  I loved seeing shows I knew I would love: Amy Sillman at Bard, David Diao at the Aldrich and Forrest Bess at the Neuberger at Purchase.  I loved being surprised and overwhelmed by shows like Kathy Butterly at Tibor de Nagy,  Jean Dubuffet at MoMA and Marc Riboud at the Rubin Museum (the last two will be open for 3 more months).  Sure I had disappointments:  Carl Andre at DIA, but then I also had small triumphs: interviewing artist Matt Magee long distance, visiting the Judd Foundation for the first time and having many fruitful studio visits.

In all of this the lesson remains that doing is the important part.  Don’t stop, keep working.  And in the spirit of this, a final review for the year.
From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis at the Jewish Museum

This show reminds me why I enjoy Abstract Expressionism.  It reminds me of my first time seeing Pollack, but also the beautiful small Klee’s not far away at The Met.  It reminds me of first seeing Kandinsky at the Guggenheim and being seduced by the harmony and movement in painted line.  It reminds me of big Newmann zips at MoMA and Pollock and De Kooning duking it out for wall space.  This show reminds me of a time before I cared much for wall labels, though at a time I could have used them most.

Norman Lewis is an artist I knew, but did not know.  I was pleased to meet him here.  Lee Krasner has never been at the top of my list of exciting painters.  To me, most of her work has appeared worked rather than painted.  Seeing her develop here alongside a contemporary who was not in her immediate sphere brings new life to her work.  The curators made smart decisions in both conceiving and hanging the show.

everyatomglows

Lewis starts a bit more quietly than Krasner but warms up over the years, matching Krasner’s growth and exceeding her in innovation and subject.  I am enamoured with 2 Norman Lewis paintings in the show.  Every Atom Glows: Electrons in Luminous Vibration, 1951 is a black and white vertical painting which uses drastic abstract shadow to create incredible depth.  Alabama II, 1969 is a field of brilliant red with red glyphs marching out from the center of the painting towards the right edge.  The painting ties nicely to Krasner’s work inspired by letters and calligraphy; especially Kufic, 1965.

Language offers a starting place for Krasner over many years.  I should rave about a few things by Krasner, but overall it is an even presentation.  Krasner gives goopy impasto and grids of patchwork flags.  She is better than a foil for Lewis, but she is Garfunkel in this duet.

From the Margins does well by both artists.  It is a great show about painting, painters and and how they develop.

-Jeff Bergman December 2014

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