Saturday, December 13, 2008

Al Held at Paul Kasmin

A must see, for anyone with an interest in abstract painting, is the Al Held exhibition at the Paul Kasmin Gallery from November 10, 2008 thru January 10, 2009.

The most recent painting in the Paul Kasmin exhibition was painted in 1985 well before the computer was a tool available to most artists. The paintings were drawn by hand using the same methods developed in the Renaissance. For example see the Paolo Uccello drawing at the bottom of the page, it was widely viewed in the late sixties.

Over the course of his career Held transformed the space for his paintings. Moving from a two dimensional plane, the locus of letter forms and plane geometry, into a deep three dimensional space where his geometric images reside in a flux of multiple vanishing points. In todays world of computer animation, it is almost to easy to forget Al Held's vision of an Euclidian world of forms was one which never existed to this extent and clarity as his paintings developed over the years.

In the post Abstract Expressionist era of the late 1960's Held made several large, minimal canvases loosely based upon letter forms, similar to "Yellow" from 1965 below but tougher. Held took a very tough stance towards his paintings at that time, the work was evolving towards a deep three dimensional space which went against the grain of the plane, against Greenberg's "flatness". I have a memory (but no jpegs) of several of these paintings, they were bluntly moving into three dimensions. The painting "Volta V" from 1977 is a more refined of the earlier black and white paintings I'm thinking about.

By the 1970's painting was in a disarray, the hidden restrictions of the old formalist dialog had collapsed and Held opened up his palette becoming one of the best colorists of the period.

The images are ordered chronologically.

Al Held
Roberta's Trip, 1985
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 96 x 144 inches (243,8 x 365,8 cm)


Al Held
Roberta's Trip F, 1985
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 31.5 x 29 inches (97,8 x 73,7 cm)


Al Held
The First Circle, 1985
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 60 x 198 inches (152,4 x 502,9 cm)


Al Held
Vorcex IV, 1984
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 108 x 108 inches (274,3 x 274,3 cm)


Al Held
Vorcex II, 1984
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 84 x 84 inches (213,4 x 213,4 cm)


Al Held
Trajans Edge II, 1982
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 84 x 84 inches (213,4 x 213,4 cm)


Al Held
S-E, 1979
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 84 x 84 inches (213,4 x 213,4 cm)


The following earlier works are not in the exhibition.

Al Held
Volta V, 1977
Acrylic on canvas
Dimension: 96 X 143 7/8 in. (243.6 X 365.4 cm)
Collection: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden


Al Held
Yellow, 1965
Acrylic on paper on canvas
Dimension: 22.64 X 30.5 in. (57.5 x 77.5 cm)
Collection: Kunstmuseum Basel, Legat Anne-Marie und Ernst Vischer-Wadler


Al Held
Taxi cab II, 1959
Synthetic polymer paint on paper laid on canvas
Dimension: 107 X 169 in. (272.0 x 429.0 cm)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia


Paolo Uccello (Italian, 1397-1475),
Perspective Study of a Chalice,
Pen and ink on paper
Dimension: 11.4 x 9.65 in. (29 x 24.5 cm)
Gabinetto dei Disegni, Uffizi, Florence.


All images Copyright © Estate of Al Held/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York or their respective owners.

2 Comments:

Blogger Hans said...

Volta V, 1977 is fantastic, the rest not so much my taste (except Uccello)

December 13, 2008 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Kathy Hodge said...

I never really looked at Al Held before, but these paintings are amazing. Greenberg was an idiot.

January 7, 2009 at 6:39 PM  

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