American Abstract Artists

MacAdam, Barbara A. “American Abstract Artists: OK Harris Works of Art”, ARTnews, Oct. 2011, p. 107.

OK Harris Works of Art

Paintings by Don Voisine and Victor Kord
Don Voisine, Debutante Twist, 2009 (left), oil on wood, 72" x 18";
Victor Kord, Avon VI, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 48" x 48".
OK Harris Works of Art.

When a wide variety of abstract paintings made by 76 artists over a 75-year period are hung together as they were here, it can resemble a thrift-shop installation—with clashing colors, patterns, and ideas. But that was not the case in this rich and varied show. The pieces were given ample space not to bleed onto their neighbors, were hung at accessible heights, and were installed as if by a graphic designer, with verticals, horizontals, and spheres interspersed.

Dating from 1936 to 2011, the works looked unexpectedly fresh, particularly since they were created by mid- and late-career artists dedicated to a genre that’s been repeatedly dismissed as decorative and irrelevant. Well, this show, sensitively curated under the perceptive eye of OK Harris dealer Ivan Karp, answered back unequivocally. Better- and lesser-known artists—all members of the organization American Abstract Artists—were represented by some of their more interesting and less characteristic works.

There was an animated painting by David Row, who deviated from his familiar ellipses, shifting to a more open, aggressive, angular geometry, and Creighton Michael, known for his wiry cursive scrawls, showed a painting with pair of red scribbles connected surprisingly and seductively by a pale-gray mesh center. David Reed was represented by his wonderful diaristic works in the planning, in which he maps out ideas for larger paintings through sketches, color charts, and notes. And minimalistic, illusionistic forms devised by Don Voisine featuring bold black shapes, establish a powerful negative space set in a brightly banded canvas.

Voisine’s thin, vertical Debutante Twist (2009) and Victor Kord’s Avon VI (2009), hanging side by side, set off a thoughtful contrast between almost-edgy and almost-lyrical. Kord’s painting expresses the interaction between the rational and poetic, with a rhythmic cursive frieze playing against a soft pattern. Manfred Mohr, who has often worked in black and white, here offered dynamic shards of intense color.

The abundant selection also included Stephen Westfall’s color rectangles, with their subtly jarring figure/ground tricks, and a terrific Richard Anuszkiewicz painted sculpture that explored a similar subject in 3-D.

But there was far too much outstanding work to mention, from an elegant composition by Marthe Keller to a small construction by Alice Adams to dynamic paintings by Judith Murray, Joan Waltemath, Lucio Pozzi, and Dorothea Rockburne. This show made apparent that these artists are still actively extending their thinking while remaining true to their devotion to abstraction.

– Barbara A. MacAdam