on view in the exhibition Leon Kossoff: From the Early Years, 1957-1967opening today, February 17, at Mitchell-Innes & Nash through March 28 at 534 West 26th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues
Like Rilke, Leon Kossoff strives “to be a beginner.” “Whether by scraping off or by rubbing down, it is always beginning again, making new images, destroying images that lie, discarding images that are dead,” he has written. In each painting there is an urgency, a sense of improvisation, such that one could believe that he had to learn as he went along how to make this image happen, to excavate or coax it from an oppressive overload of paint. Kossoff paintings are heavy–not just literally, the pigment heaped onto wooden supports, as canvas could never carry his amounts of paint, but emotionally too, the palette lugubrious and autumnal. Because of the sheer, manifest effort they embody, the works weigh heavily on the conscience of the viewer.
This was an artcritical CAPSULE in February 2009.print