(Untitled) In the Ramapo Mountain
Alizarin Time, River (detail)
Go Go Girl
by Victor M. Cassidy
Richard Pousette Dart (1916-1992) is seen by many as a key figure of the New York School. During the 1940s, he exhibited at the Betty Parsons Gallery with Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, and others. After 1951, he moved to the country, saw little of Manhattan, and painted prolifically. In recent years, Pousette-Darts work has been widely shown. Until June 12, Chicagos Valerie Carberry Gallery is exhibiting eight works on paper by Pousette-Dart and six paintings.
According to the catalog for this show, Pousette-Dart developed a painting technique in 1960 that yielded spectacular results. Instead of painting with a brush, he began to press dots of paint directly onto the canvas from paint tubes. Then, rather than leaving the spots alone, he rubbed them flat . . . applied a new layer, rubbed that layer down, and continued the process.
Pousette-Dart employed this technique to make the paintings at the Valerie Carberry Gallery. Phoenix Presence (1967) is almost 12-ft. long. As we stand back from this work, we see a blue flying phoenix and the yellow sun in dark blue surroundings. The outlines of both objects melt into the background, making them ghostly. Phoenix Presence is a field composed of dots in many colors, which makes us think of Georges Seurat. But there are no brush strokes here, so the colors simply exist and do not seem ever to have been applied to the canvas. Phoenix Presence is not so much an artists creation as a compelling visual force.
As we approach Phoenix Presence, the field of dots becomes map-like with small elevations, depressions, and divisions. We also see tiny calligraphic lines and curlicues. As his works on paper suggest, Pousette-Dart may possibly have begun this canvas by drawing lines upon it, which allowed him to maintain control of a huge space as he applied layer upon layer of dots. If the artist did not literally lay out this canvas, he may have had a pattern in his minds eye as he worked.
Two works on paper at the Valerie Carberry Gallery could be skeletons of Pousette-Darts paintings. Asymmetrical Heaven (1979) is an acrylic and graphite drawing with a circle at center left, the surface divided into boxes with straight lines, and cartographic lines leading in many directions. This crowded, almost obsessive drawing comes from an artist who could spend months or years on a single painting. (Untitled) In the Ramapo Mountain (1966-75) is an abstract titanium white and pencil drawing filled with the same kinds of marks that we see in Pousette-Darts paintings. Late in life, the artist said: You start to make marks and those marks start to speak to you and you listen to them.
Golden Presence (1961) is a shimmering abstract color field, possibly inspired by sunlight. In the middle of this painting, two-thirds of the way up is a white dot, which centers the viewer. Orange, yellowish brown, and white predominate, creating many intermediate hues in juxtaposition. Seen up close, the surface of this painting is also cartographic.
Alizarin Time, River (1988) consists of two panels, each six-ft. square. A river-like form crosses it two-thirds of the way up. Above and below it are vaguely tribal images. The colors in Alizarin Time, River are presented like chords in music with an orange or red tone, a close relative that is paler, and another even paler relative close together. This painting is positively melodious.
We looked forward to Pousette-Darts exhibition more than any other this year and it exceeded all our expectations. He was some artist!
Bob Emser has taken to the air! Previously known for large-scale public sculptures, he showed suspended and wall-hung wood and nylon constructions at the Elmhurst Art Museum in March and April. The new work, which ranges up to 24-in. high and five-in. deep, deals with similar visual issues, but employs light indoor materials.
Emser transforms the lentil shape into a mechanical-looking structure that recalls airplane wings and industrial interiors. Each sculpture has an unfinished wooden framework with an arc on one side that resembles the support of a desk globe. Within are lozenge-shaped wooden boards with holes cut out and wood strips for support. Stretched over the framework is transparent white nylon cloth, which partially encloses the interior.
Emsers forms are unstable. As we sense this tension and seek a stasis, the forms seem to move or breathe. Paris is Calling, for example, is two halves of a lentil shape propped open. We want this piece to close, wonder if it will, and stabilize it in our imagination. Bobs Path is a lentil shape with nylon stretched tight over most of its exterior such that the framework protrudes like ribs. Uncovered pieces of frame on the right end point different ways as if moved by breathing.
Air currents in the exhibition gallery moved Emsers suspended sculptures to reveal their interiors in different ways and create curious shadows on the wall. These sculptures have benign personalities from all angles, but the artists large-scale pieces seem threatening when viewed head-on. The 11-ft.-high Sistine Touch, which is installed outside the museum and visible through tall windows, is made from copper, aluminum, and fabric. The unbalanced copper form seems ready to fall and crush the viewer.
For some time, Lorraine Peltz has explored feminine imagery, first the household and now the world of fashion. Her paintings show us the amusing side of womentheir love of clothing, hairdos, and fantasy. Girlishness is, of course, one of the things that makes females so attractive--nothing else will do!
Dream/Girl, a show of six big oils by Peltz, was up at the Gescheidle Gallery during April. We see glowing, cloud-like color fields decorated with cheerful, childish imagery of flowers, smiling lipsticked mouths, stars, cartoon speech bubbles, and more. Here and there we notice something darker--a weeping eye, a lightning bolt, and forms that suggest an explosion.
Positioned prominently to set the tone of each painting is a pair of bootswhite in Go Go Girl, attractive but useless in Cow Girl, and a florid fashion statement in Flowergirl. A local department store supplied Peltz with the footwear and is duly noted in gallery handouts as a proud supporter of the arts.
These paintings are so exuberant that its easy to miss how carefully they are made. Peltz experiments with different compositionsboots positioned at the bottom with flower imagery seeming to float upward; boots off to one side with imagery around the edges of the painting and the center open; and boots filling two-thirds of the canvas with flowers, etc. arranged around them. The artist has an excellent color sense and, best of all, she knows when to stop. This is a very successful show.
VICTOR M. CASSIDY writes on art from Chicago.