Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ab Ex @ MoMA

Hans Hofmann, Cathedral, 1959
Upon first viewing MoMA's AbExNY show at the exhibit's opening at MoMA, my impression was that this work, Cathedral by Hans Hofmann was the rudest, rawest work on view in any of the galleries.  That ceased to be the case on my subsequent visits, but it's a piece that still embodies a fair degree of cacophony, especially following a the selection of Ad Reinhardt works in the preceding gallery. There is a rudeness in the paint application, and I like that the canvas is bulging under the weight of the paint near the bottom.  There's some wonderful gluttony behind this work.

 Memoria in Aeternum, 1962 to the right of Cathedral
Hans Hofmann has never been a favorite painter of mine.  His works always appeared to me to be more aides for teaching visual principles as opposed to a fully invested painting.  But what else is a painting if not a demonstration of visual principles. I also felt more of an affinity with amorphous forms and subdued colors of other artists' paintings than with Hofmann's garish geometric-inhabited pieces.  My opinion has changed, as has my visual sensibility, and I'm looking at Hofmann anew.  These two Hofmanns together pack a chromatic punch that is not quite equalled anywhere else in the exhibit.

Cathedral on the right with DeKoonings A Tree in Naples, 1960, on the left with an Ad Reinhardt in 
the next gallery in the center.
The exhibit has gotten criticism for not injecting any new evaluations that would challenge or tweak  the traditionally held narrative of that moment in art.  This viewpoint may well be valid, but for me that doesn't diminish the experience of this sprawling show in three parts that is, by and large, a treat to see.  

Bradley Walker Tomlin, Number 20, 1949

 Helen Frankenthaler, Trojan Gates, 1955

The Frankenthaler above is another striking piece, and one I hadn't seen before.  The granulated glossy black "gates" give the impression of being covered in glitter. For some reason this imagined quality made me immediately think of Martin Bromirski's work.  I was pleased that he considered this a positive evocation when I mentioned it to him a couple of weeks back - as it was intended as such.  

 The Inhabiter by Guston, 1965

 The Clock, by Guston, 1956-57
In the exhibition catalogue, Guston's "The Clock" reads as if it's a powerful 8"x10" work.  In reality, it's a  powerful work on a 5-6 ft scale.

 William Baziotes, Dwarf, 1947
Prize for the oddest painting in the exhibit goes to Baziotes's Dwarf.  Weird, and adorable.
The exhibit remains on view through Apr. 25, 2011.

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