In recent years, Larry Poons has stunned some of his fans as well as his critics by abandoning his thrown and poured paint techniques and chance compositions in favor of traditional brushes and clear, quasi-geometric forms. As if that were not enough, he reintroduced into the work his signature dots and lozenge shapes, similar to those of the early canvases that made him an art star in his youth, and which have found a secure place in the art history books.
This show of six large new works, collectively titled "Places for Ray," in honor of his late friend the artist Ray Johnson, are Poons's most ambitious canvases to date. The works suggest landscape and most of them are epic in scope and conception. While encompassing many of his past experiments, they point to still loftier goals for the artist. In Arizona, attached pieces of foam rubber give the surfaces textural variety and depth, while irregularly repeating forms and outlandish color relationships keep the eye skipping all around the canvas, in a way that can mesmerize if not hypnotize. The entire composition seems to revolve around the black lines indicating a sculptural form in the lower center of the canvas. Cucamonga is a vast (approximately 7 x 22 ft.), panoramic canvas that is equally forceful. Here planes and colors seem to shift up and down and from left to right in dramatic, sweeping movements. Figure and ground flip back and forth in a rhythmic, undulating movement, like a perpetual groundswell. These paintings are, indeed, fitting places for Ray.
Larry Poons, "Places for Ray," Apr. 7-25, 1998, at Salander O'Reilly, 20 East 79th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021.