Jack Tworkov: Mark and Grid

View at the top of the stairs at Alexander Gray Associates in Chelsea

If you're in New York City and reading this today, stop what you're doing and head over to Alexander Gray Associates in Chelsea. The splendid exhibition, Jack Tworkov: Mark and Grid, 1931-1982, is up through tomorrow, October 24. If there's no chance of your getting there, read on.

There's an entire first floor of early work by Tworkov, including landscapes and still lifes--he had a 50-year career--but I was most taken with the work from the last two decades of his life. The title of the show, Mark and Grid, best describes the work on the second floor, which I'm showing you here. Gallery notes describe Tworkov in this period as "a forerunner of post-minimalism." I love that. The tension of the grid and the self-imposed limits of minimalism are here broken by the clear presence of the artist's hand. Marks, almost cursive, are contained within  geometric compostitions which are, in turn, laid over a grid. The illusion of space--fractured, unfolding, or deeply dimensional--is strong in these works. I've  included some details, because at-a-distance viewing doesn't reveal the subtleties contained within.

Born in Poland, Tworkov emigrated to the United States at 13 and studied at the Art Stuents League and the National Academy of Design. He lived and worked in New York City and Provincetown, and he had a definitive influence on the art of the Sixties and Seventies as a professor and then chair of the art department at Yale. Viewing this work, you would probably not be surprised to learn that Jennifer Bartlett, Brice Marden, and Robert Mangold were among his students.

Jack Tworkov: Mark and Grid, 1931-1982 was curated by the gallery in collaboration with the redoubtable Jason Andrew, who among his many curatorial projects manages the Estate of Jack Tworkov.

This is Tworkov's last painting. What a way to leave this plane, eh?
Compression and Expansion of the Square (Q3-82 #2), 1982, oil on canvas

Detail below, with mark and grid very much in evidence 

P73 #5,1973, oil on canvas

Gallery notes tell us that this painting is the first of ten works in a series painted in the artist's studio in Provincetown . It is to me the most architectural of the paintings in the exhibition, its space defined in perspectival terms. You see this painting from a distance in the opening photo in this post

 Details above and below 

At the top of the stairs looking left, with Note, shown below, on the far wall

Note, 1968, oil on linen

View of the opposite end of the gallery, shot with Note at my right shoulder

Closer view of the far corner, with Knight Series #8 (Q3-77 #2), 1977, oil on canvas and Alternative IX (OC-Q1-78 #5)

Alternative IX (OC-Q1-78 #5), 1978, oil on canvas

Gallery notes tell us that ten paintings make up this series as well, and that the gridded composion is based on "a Fibonacci sequence derived from a 3:5:8: ratio." Tworkov's aim was to use this sequence to create-- I think these are the artist's words-- "identical structures but make each one a totally different painting experience (through) the color and the brushing." I am lingering here because this series is my favorite of his oeuvre. 

(I have a fond memory of rounding the corner at the Cape Cod Museum of Art a few years ago and seeing this painting >>, clearly related, if not from the same series, on a yellow wall.)

And here we are where we started
I mean it: If you're in New York City, go see this show


anna Wagner-Ott said...

These are amazing. What a sense of color relationships. Thanks for sharing his works.

STUDIO 245 said...

Brilliant and thought provoking...

Nancy Natale said...

What a fabulous show! It's incredible that a work seemingly so dry and geometric at a distance could be so juicy and rich close up. Thanks so much for posting this, Joanne. It's really a revelation.

annell said...

I have always liked his work, though I don't think I have ever really seen one in person...thanks so much for the post!

Erica H. Adams said...

Tworkov always a favorite, apart from the hordes

Helen Mathwin said...

Thanks Joanne beautiful work, there is a feeling of Twombly (spelt right??!) to these works... Something metaphysical... I would never have seen this if you hadn't shared so thanks..