Color Forms, Part 1

Richard Bottwin at OK Harris

This post began a month ago when I saw the shows of two artists, Richard Bottwin and Stanley Whitney. Both were in SoHo, Bottwin at OK Harris, Whitney at Team, and I was struck by the geometric brilliance of their work--Bottwin's so spare (and deceptively complex) as it juts out from the wall; Whitney's flat canvases so packed with relationships--color to shape, brush stroke to surface, layer to layer, field to edge--that they felt sculptural. Before I published it, I saw additional work that fit the theme and so I postponed the post. Then I saw so much more I had to revise the post to the one you see here.
Most of the work is what you would call painting, but there’s a strong sense of dimensionality in even the flattest work, Whitney's painting a case in point (just as there is a strong sense of painting in Bottwin's sculptures). Much of the work is geometric, even if there’s a sense of the organic about it. The hand is everywhere present, process is implied, and there is a deeply satisfying sense of materiality.

Above and below: The view along the wall of Bottwin's work, the planes shifting as you move closer
.Below: Turn and look in the opposite direction and what was wood becomes color, and vice versa
Bottwin's sculptures are constructed of birch plywood covered with two distinctly different surfaces. One is laminated in a graphically beautiful wood--ash burl, birdseye maple, and dark, striated veneers--the other is painted a flat, saturated hue. The conversation between the two surfaces is amplified by the angle and form of each work. There's more about Bottwin's work in my studio visit with him last summer. In fact, you're seeing in that post a preview of the work in this show.
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Stanley Whitney at Team: Agean, 2009s; right, Bob's (Rauschenberg's) Smile, 2009
Below, Wonderland, 2009; all oil on linen, 72 by 72 inches

I wrote about Whitney's work just about a year ago. It was the first time I'd seen it. Whitney is like the Agnes Martin of geometric abstraction in the way he hews to his particulars: same-size canvases, same strong saturated palette, same kind of rhythmic composition--two rows of large blocks over two rows of more compressed shapes. It's easy to think you know this work until you spend time with it. I'm still getting to know it.
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View from the street: Roy Newell at Carolina Nitsch Project Room
I'd not heard of Roy Newell (1914-2006) before. This show of about two-dozen small and glorious paintings was curated by Richard Dupont. The paintings were a revelation: tiny compositions with a tangible physicality that developed as he repainted, overpainted and then repainted again and again over a period of 50 years.
I wish the press release were online. Here are a few excerpts: "Newell adopted the framework of the grid because it offered endless permutation; it was a place to put his mind so as to focus more on color and touch. Color would vary depending on his mood. The touch is what remains of the work. He would capture something, lose it, and then paint it again on top of itself. He never finished a painting. For him they were never finished. They were an extension of his body, growing and deteriorating in time. A density of feeling builds up in them. The works have a certain memory in them; even if you can't see it, it is felt."
And: "During his lifetime the total number of solo shows was less than ten."
Above and below: I don't have titles for these two Roy Newell gems, and the website doesn't provide information, but I can tell you that these two paintings are small, under 12 inches at the longest dimension. The oil paint is build up to the point that there's actually a nap

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Matthew Langley's show, The Series (with Heejo Kim) was at Blank Space, a new small gallery on 25th Street, until February 2. Langley's grid-based work is built up in layers, some of which have been scribed into or scraped back, so the surface is informed as much by what's barely visible as much as by what used to be there.

Matthew Langley at Blank Space: Installation view, above, and a painting I particularly like, below. More images on Langley's blog

Below: All Her Songs, 2009, oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches .

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Installation view: Lloyd Martin at Stephen Haller: Large work is Current, 2009, oil on canvas, 72 x 144 inches

Lloyd Martin shares with Langley a sense of the hidden and the revealed. Martin's work, larger and often composed of two or more abutting canvases, has a sense of rhythm as well. Cadence is the word that comes to mind. Strictly formal, they nevertheless suggest notation for music. The sense of lush and spare makes for involved viewing.

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Rick Klauber at Howard Scott: Red Stripe, 2009, 20 x app 17 inches
Below, installation view with Quick Sand, 2007, 39 x 117 inches; both acrylic on white cedar shims with wire brads

Cedar shims are used to level an architectural frame. Here they throw you off balance: Is the work sculpture? It is painting? The shims are the substrate and ground of a painting, the form and stucture of a sculpture. As a painter I am concerned with the archival quality of the paintings I make; it's a burden. With this work there's a sense of being in the moment, unencumbered even by canvas. Very Zen. And very beautiful..
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Scott Richter at Elizabeth Harris Gallery: Installation, drawn from stuff in the artist's studio, with detail below

We're ending with Scott Richter, and we'll begin with him in Part 2, which I'll post next week. My totally unacademic response to this work is Wowsa! The wall you see above is the amuse oeil to the rest of the show, which I'll show you next week (or which you can see for yourself on the gallery website). There's nothing refined about this work. It's juicy, luscious, sensuous, slathered and swiped. Eye sex. I love it!
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What's Up and Where
Richard Bottwin at OK Harris through February 20
Stanley Whitney at Team; over, Jan 6-Feb 6
Roy Newell at Carolina Nitsch Project Room through February 20
Matthew Langley (with Heejo Kim) at Blank Space; over Jan 14-Feb 2
Lloyd Martin at Stephen Haller through February 20
Rick Klauber at Howard Scott through February 27
Scott Richter at Elizabeth Harris through March 13

In Part 2, next week
We'll we’ll begin where Part 1 leaves off, with Scott Richter
Carolanna Parlato at Elizabeth Harris Gallery through March 13
Christopher Tanner at Pavel Zoubok through March 13
Diane Ayott at Kathryn Markel through March 13
Renee Magnanti at Tenri Cultural Institute through February 27
Chinese Lacquer at the Met through February 21


Neanderthals Destroyed Atlantis said...

I wrote about Richter's work a few years ago (, and I am really glad that he dropped the tables from his process. The new stuff looks great.

anne mcgovern said...

Absolutely sensational work! Thanks.

peggy said...

Wowsa is right! The images of both Whitney's and Richter's work make me feel like a kid in a candy store. Thank you for sharing these tasty treats.

couchartpotato said...

Nice set of artists ... wish I had the time to have gone to NYC to see Botwin esp. Have you seen yet Helen Miranda Wilson at Lori Bookstein?(?)

matthew langley said...

Thanks for the mentions of my work, I've dropped you a note a few moments ago however the artwork you mentioned is:

All Her Songs, 2009, oil on canvas, 30" x 36"

Joanne Mattera said...

Give me a minute, already. Helen Miranda Wilson just opened yesterday! I'm still processing everything I've seen over the past few weeks.

But I DID write about a show of hers in Boston, which I saw this summer. Here's the link:

Laura said...

Can't wait for Part 2 - YAY! Scott Richter.

LXV said...

Wow! Beautiful visuals. The Richard Bottwin shot with quadruple shadows is a stunning opener. Well, I can't even start to list my faves because it's the whole list. Unfortunately I'm out of town until next week, but I'll try to see what's still up when I get back. Thanks Joanne

* said...

Roy Newell -- Fantastic work. Great scale, great color, very interesting spatial play between surface, color and frame or edge. Hope to see more of his work.

--ken w.

Eva said...

What a great post. Thanks for all your hard work. Such beautiful images.

Matthew Beall said...

I especially liked Matthew Langley's pieces. Thanks Joanne, as always, you manage to bring us something to talk about.