Making Art, and Making It Well: Two Recent Group Shows
Art in the Making at FreedmanArt
October 30, 2014 to March 31, 2015
25 East 73rd Street (between 5th and Madison avenues)
New York, 212 249 2040
The Space Between at the New York Studio School
February 13 to March 22, 2015
8 West 8th Street (between Macdougal and 5th Avenue)
New York, 212 673 6466
Some finished works of art efface evidence of the process of their own making. A painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres or Philip Pearlstein doesn’t reveal how it was made — in that way, it is like a photograph. There is, by contrast, a special fascination in art which, by revealing the activity of its own making, makes that process part of its meaning. Such art, it might be said, is the most aesthetic visual art — it is doubly art because we both identify its abstract or figurative subject and enjoy seeing how that subject was rendered. We find this happening with Abstract Expressionism, as represented at FreedmanArt’s “Art in the Making,” by marvelous signature style works by Adolph Gottlieb, Philip Guston, Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, among others, and by artworks from artists of succeeding generations who extended that tradition. And the juxtaposition of a little two-sided painting Woodland Stream, Martha’s Vineyard/Chilmark Landscape (1922) by Thomas Hart Benton with a glorious drawing from his pupil, Jackson Pollock Untitled (folded greeting card) (1946-47) is a marvelous demonstration of how varied art whose making is part of its meaning can be. So too are the 23 drawings by Kit White, as illustrated in his book 101 Things to Learn in Art School (MIT Press, 2011), which present details from works by such varied painters as Michelangelo Caravaggio, Giorgio Morandi and Andy Warhol.
The press announcement for “The Space Between” identifies a key theme in Studio School teaching. Between-ness, this text suggests, may allude to the space between forms in the picture plane, between abstraction and representation, and, also, between pictorial symbols and the three-dimensional space they symbolize. Here, then, we find a variation on FreedmanArt’s theme, for speaking in these varied ways about betweenness is to allude to awareness of the process of art making. No wonder, then, that Bill Jensen and Graham Nickson are in both shows, for Jensen’s abstractions and Nickson’s figurative images provide pleasure thanks to both their subjects and our awareness of the painting process used to present those subjects. The same is true, comparing two other works on display at the Studio School: contrast, I would suggest, Margrit Lewczuk’s magnificent large Untitled (2009) with Stanley Lewis’ View from Studio Window (2003-4). Sometimes the most revealing survey displays are found not in our museums but in the galleries — here in small galleries. You could teach a whole history of Modernism using just the art on display in these two richly suggestive shows. That is a great, generous achievement.