Fabian Marcaccio on Jasper Johns

perilous_380Jasper Johns, Perilous Night, 1982, Encaustic paint, 5′ 7″ x 8′ 0″ x 0′ 6″

Jasper Johns is one of the more complex, evolving and sophisticated American painters of our time. Most American painters are voluntarily simplistic. They are proud of maintaining one single technique, working on one single support and keeping one single attitude over the course of their careers. Johns wants to be a complete painter, not a specialist in this or that. He keeps painting total and whole despite the fact that many see it as exhausted and fragmented.

In Perilous Night, Johns shows a complex take on abstraction and representation in the way that he brings together many manners of painting. This painting was executed during the 80’s, the decade of pastiche, irrationality and simulation. Johns answered this with irreducible complexity. His flags and maps from the 50s are great but this painting shows, in a humble way, all of the doubts, questions, and ambiguities he had about America. There are no easy solutions for Johns or any painter with a sense of responsibility to painting. This ghostly piece contains some of the more productive seeds that have been sown in American painting in the last 30 years.

In all of Johns’ work there is this oscillating, transitional brushwork that comes from Cezanne. Johns revives it from the chopping board of Cubism and brings it back as a stuttering pictorial mark, an uncertain way in and on paint. In Perilous Night, this uncertainty is reinforced by the use of double images and visual and tactile paradoxes. Johns confronts us with a pictorial mine field. He thinks through painting, as rationally as a human can, and finds expression in the end. These are not the irrational outbursts of Expressionism. He combines object, negative/positive space, camouflage, and diagrammatic drawing in a special integrational way. The parts that make up the painting are tied together like a chess game in a heterogeneous cohesion.

A rarified atmosphere emanates from the painting, a kind of intra-image, a spectrum rather than simulation. It is as if Johns wanted to investigate darkness and horror but, naturally, he could not. He positions himself as if he is at the gates of some great horror, looking in. He brings from the history of painting a fragment that contains the Stimmung of horror: Grünewald’s crucifixion. He asks Grünewald, “…Can you tell me about this horror?” Maybe, in many years-in-paint to come, we or somebody will get the answer. This is not appropriation. This is an organic, inter-pictorial regurgitation. This is the way painting communicates with painting internally. This is specific to wet pictorial thinking, not verbal thinking.

For the anti-painting critics, Johns is a kind of nightmare. He proves over and over again the relevance of painting, like in the complexity of Duchamp’s Tu m,’ as opposed to the all too easy-to-repeat-for-ever ready-made. Starting from Duchamp and Cezanne, Johns developed the Combine Painting, which brings together a cluster of pictorial paradoxes that are irreducible to conceptualism, formalism, abstractionism or realism. It is the foundation of really complex painting today.

onur gökçeFabian Marcaccio, Transport, 2013, Hand woven manilla rope, climbing rope, alkyd paint, silicone, wood,
82 x 94 x 6 inches

Tony Ingrisano on Yukinori Yanagi

yanagi2Yukinori Yanagi, Wandering Position, 1997, Line etching, 24 x 20 inches

Looking back, I am amazed that I was attracted to them at all; my tastes skew towards the insanely complicated and these pieces were really just simple line drawings. But it was that straightforward, clumsy mark that gave the works such an alluring composition. One continuous red line snaking back and forth against the rectangular surface of an etched plate, always concentrating near the edge, looking for a way out. There was an energy there. The long, uninterrupted mark had a life. The print had been pulled on paper significantly larger than the plate itself and it was this large white border that gave it a sense of possibility. There was potential for an escape; the line just hadn’t found an out yet.

Many years ago, I stood in front of five etchings from the series Wandering Position by Yukinori Yanagi at the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, MA. They were small, 20”x24”, and (I later learned) part of a larger series that includes significant sized drawings made directly on the floor.

Standing in front of the prints, my eyes began wandering along with the mark; it was unbroken and didn’t seem to have a beginning or end. My eye traveled across this foreign arena looking for some reasoning behind these lines. Later, reading the wall text, I learned the artist had placed an ant in a box of the same dimensions as the plate’s surface, and used a red crayon to follow and replicate the ant’s journey across the plate, treading the edges, looking for an escape. Of course there was a little ant scurrying around trying to make sense of this new territory, this confusing new space. That’s exactly what I had done. It is this parallel between the experience of the subject and the viewer that makes these images so satisfying.

This piece opened up (for my young self) new possibilities of where ideas can come from. Yanagi had given control over the mark making to an ant, who was clearly unaware of any intention to make lines; it just wanted to escape. Shifting the onus of creative direction onto the subject and allowing the artist to be a stenographer who documents its journey was a powerful new idea for me. The prints also explore the idea of framing and edge, where the dimensions of the plate are defined only by activity that has taken place inside.

Another reason these etchings have stuck with me for so long is their embodiment of one of the characteristics I find so valuable in great art; the work required no explanation to pull me in. Although discovering the framework for Wandering Position added new layers of meaning to the work, the image itself is intriguing enough to warrant spending time with the piece.

Looking back, the work’s existence as a print is significant as well. It brings about questions I don’t have answers to, which I love. One of printing’s primary intentions is quick, easy dissemination. What does it mean to make copies of this singular ant’s irreproducible struggle and how does that refer back to the mark making itself and, in a broader sense, all marks made by artists? Does multiplying this experience elevate and imbue it with meaning it lacked as a singular entity, cheapen its uniqueness and individuality, or leave it somewhere in between?

Speaking of appropriately weighted layers, Yanagi has undertaken work from this series in many locations, and considers the meaning to shift with each staging. The artist writes that the pieces have referenced his own struggle to define himself as Japanese while working in North America. The work has also spoken to confinement and incarceration when executed on Alcatraz Island. These themes are provocative, rich in connotations and readings. But, for the most part, when viewing Wandering Position, I am caught in some weird world between artist and ant, on a terrifying, ecstatic journey to discover a place just beyond limitations.

LandMass6Tony Ingrisano, Aerial Cartography #6, 2014, Acrylic ink and graphite on cut and rearranged paper

Emily Noelle Lambert on James Turrell

review-erickson-josephs-coat-2011-c2a9-james-turrell-photo-by-giovanni-lunardi-webJames Turrell. Joseph’s Coat, 2011, Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida
© James Turrell, Photo by Giovanni Lunardi.

Faced with the task of writing for Painters on Paintings, I wanted to find a painting that stopped me dead in my tracks. A strike of cadmium red cutting through to my soul, a work that stops everything for me. Painting can do that – Caravaggios and Beckmanns have pulled me close from across a museum floor. Sometimes, it is color that does this for me: a swath of blue green against a coral pink. After a long winter and a cool spring, I find that my inspiration stems from color, arresting me and connecting me in time.

This February I was at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota installing four of my wooden sculptures. One evening, the museum emptied of its guests, the curator Matthew McLendon mentioned he needed to check on something in James Turrell’s Skyscape titled Joseph’s Coat. Finished in 2011, it is Turrell’s largest Skyscape in the United States, boasting a twenty-four foot aperture. After finishing up in the galleries, I wandered through the empty museum to find Matthew. I expected him to be bent over his phone sending emails, ready for a bucket-sized margarita. Instead, I was surprised to find his six-foot-plus frame lying in the middle of the tiled floor ofJoseph’s Coat, his laptop open next to him playing Tibetan singing bowls. Above, the sky was changing colors as the interior of the space slowly shifted hues via illuminated LED lights. Dropping my bag, I too sprawled out on the floor.

I was stopped in my tracks and given no choice but to be still and take in the piece. It was one of those experiences with art that is simultaneously immediate and infinite. The kind of experience that makes me think of what Gaston Bachelard’s said about immensity in his book The Poetics of Space: “Immensity is within ourselves. It is attached to a sort of expansion of being that life curbs and caution arrests…As soon as we become motionless, we are elsewhere; we are dreaming in a world that is immense. Indeed, immensity is the movement of motionless man. It is one of the dynamic characteristics of quiet daydreaming.” 

Lying there, captivated by the theatrics of light, I was floating in a visual daydream. I was pulled into the color of the lights—the sunset transforming the sky, the square hole in the ceiling smoothly sliding between greens, pinks, blues, the whole ceiling and sky briefly uniting. The square window opened up, receded into the distance and then, as the color transformed, the sky came forward. Each subtle shift in color had me in rapt attention. I reached for my phone, hoping to snatch an image of one of the color combinations, but it was impossible—this was something only to be consumed in that moment.

Long legged egrets swooped over the opening; a hot pink wisp of cloud danced across the stage. I floated along with the shifting sky, anticipating the next gem to reveal itself. Color theory in action: the sense of foreground and background, the confluence of the manmade and the natural display. Oh to recall the sky does these tricks daily, twice daily, constantly sweeping across with incredible color if we only stop to marvel.

I do not think I have the language to pin down what happened—the rush of color, slap of space, floating, flying, opening—combinations of tones I wanted to burn into my brain, to recreate later on a canvas. I know I felt a distinct sense of immediate immensity. A feeling that comes occasionally in the making of art and in the looking.

It was Joseph Albers, J.M.W. Turner and meditation practice wrapped into one.

I was receiving quick lessons in the sublime, immensity and the infinitesimal all at once. I was connected to the vibrations and ancient qualities of color. I also had an overwhelming sense that by being still, by clearing space, things were unfolding. As a painter, I am intimately familiar with the time I need to spend staring at colors, waiting for them to speak to me, to tell me what happens next. I begin my paintings by putting color on the canvas; the conversation unfolds in a sequence of color that moves between discord and harmony.

Watching the sky through the Turrell Skyscape, I thought about how no two experiences of this piece could ever be the same. A work of art is part collaborative collage with the universe.

The hour-long “show” ended when the sky was deep inky blue/black/purple and the color in the room faded slowly to white. Then it became a Malevich painting, the sky back in its proper place, the room illuminated, the sent of jasmine wafting around us. I returned again to the feel of the cool cement on my back.

Is it magic, this type of artistry? I love to think about how it acts as a bridge in time, how a painting made 40, 400, or 4000 years ago jumps out at us like a guard dog ready to attack, full of life and force. Great art invites us to connect to the present while echoing clearly from the past.

DSC_3601Emily Noelle Lambert, Veil (from the darkness to the light), 2014, Acrylic and wood on panel, 42 x 33 inches

 

Lauren Gidwitz on Édouard Vuillard

h2_2000.93.2Edouard Vuillard, Album, 1895, Oil on Canvas, 26 3/4 x 80 1/2 inches

Every time I visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York I spend at least thirty minutes with Album, by Vuillard. It continues to fascinate me.

The painting reads like a wave hitting the shore, cresting from the right and crashing left in a frenzy of flower and leaf patterned textures. One gentle swoop of an arm pulling a ribbon guides me up to the stooping woman  in the background, back over the dotting heads, and drops my gaze into the rare  free space of the painting, occupied only by the woman sprucing up the flowers in the foreground and the possible hidden figure behind her.

It took me three years to see the third middle figure looking at the album, and today I saw possibly an eighth figure, given away by a full red and white striped skirt peeking out behind the figure arranging flowers.

How Vuillard could do so much with so little color in this piece fascinates: its harmonies and values tantalize my eyes; its textures and subtle shifts of tonalities enchant. But the great mystery and mastery of this piece lies in the fact that its content and execution do not overwhelm the viewer, but in fact are quite humble and understated.

The museum placard refers to the piece as decorative, one of five commissioned panels for Thadée and Misia Natanson. I find it anything but decorative. Every time I lay eyes on the work I am swept into a room that I imagine is resonant with hushed tones, with soft murmurings over an album, the unraveling of ribbon, a gentle jostling of baby’s breath, and the solemn knee of the hidden eighth woman.

It was and still is rare for a man to occupy a “woman’s world” as fully as Vuillard did. As a male he was an interloper into this secretive and rich life, gaining access through his close relationship to his mother and sister. Through this work I can feel that he truly loved the nuances of this feminine realm and its flesh and blood occupants.

The visual residue of this painting occupied my mind last summer as I traveled north for a residency on a sailing ship in the Arctic Circle. Vuillard’s influence and my surroundings led to panoramic drawings and photos which led to paintings back in my Long Island City studio: one of my memories of the watery landscape, and another (pictured below) of intertwining figures, both of which occupy a space of strange and potent quietude—the kind of silence Vuillard understood so well.

Untitled1Lauren Gidwitz, Ceremony, 2015, Oil on Linen, 20 x 80 inches

Benjamin Britton on Julie Mehretu

JMehretuMogamma2Julie Mehretu, Mogamma (A Painting in Four Parts): Part II, 2012, Ink and acrylic on canvas, 15 x 12 feet
Collection of High Museum of Art

I decided to write about Mogamma (A Painting in Four Parts): Part II by Julie Mehretu. Although I’ve followed her work for a while, it has become the piece of hers I have seen in situ the most. To write about a painting from a painter’s perspective, I would ideally be looking right at it while I wrote, and not at a photograph or an image on a screen. I should say, the other three parts of Mogamma I have only seen as photographic representations. Part II is at the High Museum in Atlanta, in a very large room where there is a nice place to sit down and view the painting.

I first became aware of Julie Mehretu’s work after I left New York for LA in 2002. At the time I was looking for a way to concretize conceptual and representational information as an abstraction. I was drawing on my experiences in NYC when I worked as a bike messenger. In the course of a day, I would encounter many perspectives and transparencies to the civic structure while traversing the thresholds of buildings and seeing the map of the city take different forms in my mind each time I walked out onto the street. I was a tiny fleshy part of many weird systems of power: global finance, insurance, fashion, advertising, the dot com boom and bust, among others. There were moments of poetry, boredom, and fear. Sometimes the same song played out of the window of each car and truck that crawled through midtown {in my mind it’s Doo-Wop (that thing) by Lauryn Hill in the summer of 1998}. As I wound through the gridlock on my way up Sixth Avenue, each set of speakers would connect with the next, everyone on the same station, forming the whole song of out of fragments. Even as I wanted to avoid direct references to bicycles and NYC in my work, I was interested in complex spaces, and a sense of speed and motion, moments of awkward beauty. I wanted the experience of viewing the work to feel like the subject matter – the surface layered with chaotic states and feats of brinksmanship.

From my first introduction to Mehretu’s work, I was struck by its speed and multiplicity of transparent perspectives. The paintings gave the sensation of lives lived in multiple locations, the architecture of power, and the actions of people against the background of civic structures of control. And she was doing it with abstraction, but something beyond the grid of modernism. It was a generative approach, and one from which I internalized much about how painting can function. Looking at her work certainly contributed to my desire to have a painting define its own conditions within its frame and produce its own climate, rather than arranging forms based on composition. It also helped me to see the way in which signifiers could be interpreted formally so that they became abstractions, yet held their signification. The form of the signifier was shifted using scale, orientation, position, direction, and color to become a parallel iteration of the conceptual motivation for using the signifier in the first place (for example, the temporary status of architectures of power she describes using layered line drawings of transparent architectural facades).

13851 2MehretuDetail2aJulie Mehretu, Mogamma (A Painting in Four Parts): Part II, (Detail), Image courtesy of the High Museum of Art

When we look, we attend to what we’re seeing with our body, vision, intellect, emotion and the blended strings of a thousand different things inside us that get plucked by things outside of us. I respond to Mogamma (A Painting in Four Parts): Part II in a corporeal way on account of its scale, of course (about 15 by 12 feet), but also the way the body is continually positioned and re-positioned by the multiplicity of perspectival systems in the work. It has all the visual dynamism and boggling complexity we expect from one of Mehretu’s pieces. There is an emotional heart to the turbulence of the picture, and the subject matter is fraught with complicated emotions. The piece is named after the main government building in Tahrir Square in Cairo, painted a year after the Egyptian revolution that was a part of the Arab Spring of 2011. And, reason and deliberation are also engaged; there is an encouragement of analysis by the diagrammatic spaces and application of color and graphic lines. These things are at odds; there is a friction in describing events like this, the experience of which would be so clearly charged with feelings, noise, exposure, and color, as graphic and gestural lines in black (mostly) on an exquisite milky background. This contrast is a conceptual pivot point for analysis, digression, projection, and prediction. It heightens, I would say, one of the things painting is very good at doing — describing the paradox of containing time in a way that seems removed and timeless.

The edges of our perceptual fields are always changing. We could be looking down a road through the rain, extending our view a hundred feet; or staring at some scrambled eggs at close range as we talk on the phone, and then draw back within ourselves to pay attention to some thought in our minds that the smell of cooking eggs or rain on the road has conjured. In this way we are always shifting perspective, attending to multiple fronts of sensation, emotion, memory, and reason simultaneously. A painting with edges like Mogamma frames and directs the perceptual field into a charged and focused space, intensifying it. Because the painting has illusionistic space, there is another layer of processing that goes into traversing the image, and with that comes a brilliant array of opportunities to connect perception to ideas via feelings. An example of this is how the colored lines occasionally “bend” into one of the satin milky glazes, and become intersections between layers of information. The line starts as a verb, then becomes an emotional rush of freedom from some constraint, and then a bridge to another layer of a complicated maelstrom of signification.

Approaching Mogamma from a good distance, there is a kinetic density in the top half of the painting that dissipates in the lower half. The ground is layered milky-white acrylic and the majority of the marks are black ink or acrylic. Within this overall condition we find the motifs and structures Mehretu is well known for: a series of colorful hard-edge arcing lines with light relief and consistent width that seem to respond to the conditions of the tempest in the picture. There’s evidence at their edge that they’ve been taped and sprayed for variegated color. Upon closer inspection, a tangle of systems is immediately apparent, mostly consisting of fine line drawings of architecture and such structural details as could be found in a public square (in addition to the Mogamma, other details are drawn from buildings in Tripoli and Cairo). There are also solid black squares and dot patterns. The marks that make up the turbulence are different though: they are scores of discreet gestures. These marks have a great quality that I love in the amassing of expressive marks: no matter how similar the reasons for applying strokes each time, every gesture is unique. One could say they are suggestive of people, their speech, their complex voices.

Once we enter the picture, we are transported simultaneously to more than one place. The topic is self-expression and power within the conceptual and physical spaces of the public square. Although this work is directly inspired by the events of the Arab Spring, these are subjects we hold in common. I think one of the questions that is posed with this work is under what conditions does the speech align? The representation is of simultaneous events occurring in a network whose constituents are represented by gestural marks: protagonistic, brushy, and calligraphic. The perspective we are given also feels distant and contains a stretch of time and place with literal, semi-opaque layers that obfuscate the details. These details lead me to thoughts like: political movements are based on organizing, struggle, and conscience, but they need the right conditions to be successful and many of those conditions are unknown to those engaged in the struggle. There is an element of randomness in the overall condition of this picture and what it reveals to and conceals from us that is indicative of the complexity and opacity of an event like a revolution.

Up close, some of the individual drawings of buildings can be teased out and seen partially as individual structures, especially at eye level. As you look up though, they simply get too dense and too complicated to parse, to the point of being bewildering and resistant to logic. I’d say the top four feet, where the painting gives over to stormy eddies of gesture, is really too far away to see in the same way as the rest of the painting. This is another interesting window into the piece’s conceptual structure that is unavailable in a jpeg that can be enlarged and examined; there is an opacity that takes over in the midst of all the transparency when I am overwhelmed by the density of information. Finally, a painting with so many references to architecture can’t help but connect to the surrounding architecture where it resides.

ceilingCeiling at the High Museum, Atlanta Georgia

As I gaze up into the top third of the painting, I can’t help considering the distinctive ceiling of the High Museum, with its evenly spaced circular apertures to the sky. This is an exit out of the picture, but the language of the painting forms a ligament to the edifice, connecting the pictorial, conceptual, and physical spaces through the established language of color and form in the painting. The significance is to complicate the architectures outside the picture the way they are complicated inside it. The way this painting engages multiple varieties of space makes looking at it a continually rewarding experience. It repays the act of looking with rigor and depth.

fancydancer800Benjamin Britton, Fancy Dancer, 2014, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 90 x 82 inches

Alexandria Smith on Laylah Ali

8f4373bde1ae23c351da8891a4f1ea37Laylah Ali, Untitled (Acephalous series), 2015, Gouache, acrylic, watercolor, and pencil on paper, 29 1/2 x 23 inches

I first came across Laylah Ali’s paintings in graduate school and immediately felt enamored. Her works were refreshing and filled me with validation. Since childhood, I was attracted to comics and cartoons and for many years, was convinced that I would become an animator. Years of schooling resulted in my desire to follow the path of being a fine artist; making work for myself as opposed to clients. I didn’t, however know what that “looked” like: What kind of work was acceptable? How could I create work that was engaging, unique and personal? What could I create that would make others take me seriously? How could I be vulnerable as a woman, as an artist, as a black person, yet still participate in a patriarchally-dominated institution? How could I paint my truth without being pedantic? There were so many questions at that time but not enough answers and to this day, I still don’t necessarily have the answers. What I did discover after my encounter with Laylah Ali’s paintings was that I could actually do all of those things by just being myself.

Laylah Ali’s Greenheads series showed me that there was no “correct” way to go about being a black, queer, female artist or simply an artist but that just being me was enough. Her work rendered me speechless. She had a booming voice emanating through the graphic language of cartoons and comics. Her works communicated various current events and the plight of our society through the simplest and oldest form of art-making. Laylah gave me the validation and confidence I needed to push forward and create. In some images, the Greenheads are both aggressive and physically violent or bear witness to the aftermath of destruction. They are small, detailed paintings with a cartoonish aesthetic that are created with extreme delicateness. The colors of her paintings are rich and alluring and allude to childhood nostalgia. There is also something quite horrific and grotesque after being engrossed in the work for a long period of time. Their intimate scale requires an intense engagement and a yearning for scrutiny that over time develops into prostration. Minute details: missing limbs, contorted bodies, exposed flesh, slowly reveal themselves and humanize these otherworldly figures. I feel encapsulated by their world and long to simultaneously help them and turn away.

There is a distinct difference between viewing Laylah Ali’s work in person versus a reproduction, which I discovered recently at the opening of her new exhibit at Paul Kasmin Gallery. These new paintings, her first solo exhibition since 2005, called The Acephalous Series are much quieter. The brushstrokes and layered effect of the gouache create a very different experience than viewing the works in a publication. There is a tension between the physical grotesqueness of the characters and their melancholy, subdued aura as they appear to be on an endless journey. These new characters introduced in this series retain the figurative fragmentation of The Greenheads but are more contemplative. The nautical world she depicts highlights water’s function as an agent of trauma, spirituality, and peace.

The language of Laylah Ali’s work has taught me a lot about my own ways of looking, body awareness, color, materiality and narrative that I’ve brought into my studio practice. In an interview with “The Believer”, she perfectly encapsulates my own goal for how I aim for my work to function. She states, “My body definitely undergoes the stress and tension of working on the paintings, but that tension is directed into the figures and their exchanges. I really wanted to resist any easy connection to the artist—people always want to go there, to the pathology of the artist, rather than examining themselves. I think I need to disappear a bit in order for the viewer to engage more fully.” It is evident in this new series that Laylah Ali has accomplished her goal by allowing the viewer to become solely immersed in the work without the distraction of her presence; revealing the tranquility of societal dysfunction.

FolieADeuxAlexandria Smith, Folie a Deux, 2014, mixed media collage on board, 30 x 42 inches

Tony Robbin on Joyce Kozloff

15_If_I_Were_an_Astronomer_TasmanJoyce Kozloff, If I Were an Astronomer (Tasman), 2014, Mixed media on canvas,
72 x 54 inches

Joyce Kozloff’s If I Were an Astronomer (Tasman), 2014, has a magical, rich, nocturnal silver-blue light that unifies the work and allows an exuberance of imagery to be seen as a whole. As recent color painting (of which there seems to be less and less) gets further and further removed from representation, a specific “light” is lost. By light, I mean the vision that each color is tinted by the time of day or diffusing atmospheric conditions; it makes one painting different from another, as indeed Tasman is different from the sun-dried-tomato reds of Mediterranean. We have the sensation of an artist’s direct experience, rather than someone just running a theory. The presence of full white and full dark, with tonalities in between, adds solidity to the work and makes the work dynamic; having areas darker and others lighter is different from the color of close values, characteristic of 60s Color Field Painting, that has become so common.

13_If_I_Were_an_Astronomer_Mediterranean

Joyce Kozloff, If I Were an Astronomer (Mediterranean), 2014, Mixed media on canvas.
72 x 54 inches

Kozloff always delights in hand work, and in these new works there is a thrilling intensity to our close view. Raising a son, and reading his favorite Tintin by George Remi, she made larger, detailed copies of the illustrated books, as though she took seriously the admonition that an idle hand was the Devil’s plaything. Looking close at Tasman, we see a variety of painted elements and collected elements: printed, retrofitted, reshaped, commuter generated, captured from other worlds. It is evidence of a restless yet generous imagination.

The six-fold and eight-fold patterns are familiar from tilework in Seville and Granada, but in the Alcázar or Alhambra the patterns, though juxtaposed, are isolated from one another. In Kozloff’s work the patterns are more like the Persian miniatures from the Shahnameh in the Metropolitan Museum of New York (made by various artists), where patterns in the architecture, rugs, and tiles are slipped into one another, making patterns within patterns. Indeed, the format of the vertical work reminds me of the proportions of the pages of the manuscript. In this intermixing, Kozloff shows a fascination with, and an understanding of, how the patterns are related, how one can be morphed into another from an underlying symmetry.

Kozloff quickly moved away from 70s Pattern Painting, first to Pattern and Decoration and installation pieces, and then to works with explicit political content. But we must remember how political Pattern Painting was when it first appeared. Political in the artworld, and also just plain political! Traditional women’s work, such as quilts, lace, baskets, deserves to be valued and aesthetically appreciated; no need to be defensive about the decorative; and the work of the whole world – Asian, African, Native American, and Mesoamerican- is our tradition, not just European, not just from parochial New York. To me, If I Were an Astronomer (Tasman) is political in the best sense of the word.

05-7Tony Robbin, 2005-7, 2005, Acrylic on Canvas, 56 x 70 inches