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by Michael Brennan
|A new season in a new millennium, and despite the New York art world's present bounty, I keep finding myself leaving town for a sense of true renewal. Twice in one week I've taken Amtrak's new "Acela" train down to Philadelphia in order to see a show of calligraphy paintings by Japanese master collaborators Hon'ami Koetsu and Towaraya Sotatsu. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is hosting this first American survey of these two 17th-century artists (on view through Oct. 29), and it may be the last exhibition of this scope for quite some time. Many of the scrolls are light sensitive and were due to be turned, or retired from the show altogether, by Sept. 18.
"The Arts of Hon'ami Koetsu, Japanese Renaissance Master" is an exhibition of the first order, and includes some of the most rewarding art that I've seen in some time. Like the famed Titian exhibition at the National Gallery, or MoMA's Mondrian show a few years back, this one of those rare events that must be seen for a number of pressing reasons. Even the ever-skeptical Roberta Smith of the New York Times couldn't help but draw comparisons between Koetsu and Leonardo da Vinci.
Koetsu's greatest talent could be in his sensitivity towards the harmonious wedding of image and text, and he does this with seamless poetic force. "The Arts of Hon'ami Koetsu" includes many exquisite examples of poem cards, gold and mica inked handscrolls, printed books, lacquerware and Raku ware teabowls. Although all of Koetsu's work is strenuously elegant, one work in particular, Poem Card with Design of Pines on a Beach, proves how disruptive that kind of beauty can be.
The three works featured at Susan Inglett in SoHo ($500-$5,000) are no exception. Winters' two drawings, Linking Graphics, 1 and Application-Specific, with their fat- and thin-tipped Magic Marker lines, are both splintery structural graphs burning inside out with raw and destabilizing energy.
The screenprinted edition titled Location Plan reads just like a storyboard with its 30 individual yet gridded images. Location Plan reminds me of that famous grouping of film stills for Robert Smithson's The Spiral Jetty that has often been shown as a stand-in for the actual site-specific sculpture.
It's odd, but when artists -- even ones from different eras -- begin to incorporate science, their work tends to acquire general qualities of pattern and form specific to that ever-expanding and yet not so unrelated field. Works included in this show are similar to other drawings that were recently exhibited at Kunsthalle Basel and used in a backdrop for choreographer Trisha Brown and composer Dave Douglas.
Fishman has always let her intuition lead the way, and that penetrating sense combined with her own physical might -- her strong-arm gesture -- has often provided some surprising results. Her search in the paint is still on, but this group has an unfamiliar air of fatigue about them and many of the compositions seem undirected. Iron String, however, has all of the admirable vitality that I've long admired in Fishman's best work, with its vigorous paint handling and fearless mark making.
Castaway cubes that range in color from diminutive to flare punctuate the paintings' seemingly infinite space. The size and placement of the cubes is mathematically determined, as witnessed by the pencil-marked notations left on the paintings' bare canvas edges. Sometimes the cubes appear to be free-floating singularities that have broken away from the grid, and other times they appear entirely locked down.
The interior of Waltemath's paintings is a microcosm of how her paintings are placed and act in the world at large. More simply put, what happens on the inside of the paintings is also happening on the outside.
Arc and Pyramidal Arc are composed of cinderblocks, and -- again like Nagorka's works on paper -- their interiors are filled with dead bugs trapped in cobwebs and other detritus found in the real world. None of this really distracts the viewer from overall beauty of the pieces. In fact they seem more real. After a recent flood of installations in which all matter of debris is suspended mid-way between floor and ceiling, it's nice to see some sculpture of substantial weight so firmly grounded in space.
Harvey Quaytman at McKee Gallery
This exhibition is a mixed survey of square and shaped paintings from 1996 to '98 ($6,000-$45,000). Quaytman is a master of materials. His predilection for painting powder-dry surfaces of rust is well known, as is his eccentric taste for propeller-shaped canvasses, outrigger-type geometric form, and slung-back ultralight constructions.
Quaytman is also famous for suggesting to Brice Marden in them '60s that he try adding wax to his paint for a matte finish. The Miller's Delight is a fine example of how much space Quaytman can tweak with just a few choice colors and some carefully struck lines. Although the Neo-Geo movement briefly glommed onto Quaytman in the late '80s, he has always had a much deeper sense of the interplay between composition and space than nearly every other geometric painter around. Skater, for example, holds the wall and glides across it in an anti-static manner simultaneously.
Jules Olitski at Ameringer Howard
Now nearly 80, Olitski has nevertheless managed to make enough entirely new paintings to occupy two floors of the Fuller Building. It is the artist's first New York show in five years, and I think his strongest in at least ten. As per usual, many of the paintings included in this show are startling in their sheer beauty and fulsome use of paint. Blistered and transparent gluey surfaces come alive with a glittery incandescence from canvas to canvas. The images appear vaguely volcanic in origin, and drier surfaces seem to give way to wetter surfaces underneath, not unlike rolling lava that is crusty on top but fluid and molten on bottom.
Many paintings, such as Origins: Pearce's Lake, contain Olitski's stock-in-trade moves, such as drawing a line around the edge, which somehow seem more spirited now and less obsessive than they did in the past.
Olitski's new paintings remind me of Albert Pinkham Ryder's famous painting The Lorelei, where for some unknown chemical or technical reason Ryder's painted image of Lorelei has vanished and the viewer is left only with the implied doom of a tempestuous sea and impending rocks. I love Olitski's paintings because they remind of Los Angeles, a place where pleasure and the apocalypse freely mix.
Ya-Yuan Tseng at Gallery 456