On earth as it damn well should be
in heaven. One wants to ask for a prie-dieu, such is the majesty of the Clyfford Still upon entering this new gallery. With its jagged mesas of blue and the topmost talons (red creeping into maroon), this is prime Still. Need more?* It lies in the interior: not as immediate, but there's no dross with this artist.
Trying to elucidate why Still is great is like trying to explain why you're with your lover. Sui generis, his work is as ineffable (and as indelible) as his/her scent.
This most uncompromising of artists "once wrote that painting was a way to find revelation and to 'exalt the spirit of man.'”†
The other standout is a large work by Lee Krasner, so stunning one wonders what the fuss was with that guy she was married to. "Another Storm" must be viewed up close: paint is splashed (hurled?), dripped, brushed, smooshed. White and red and everything between. The violence is palpable; the viewer cowers. If this is your first exposure to a mural-size Krasner, read the first sentence of this paragraph. "Storm" is flanked on the left by a mushy/twitchy de Kooning, all Ornette Coleman, and on the right, a bodacious David Smith painted-steel woman. Love the segue.
Ah yes, David Smith. His six sculptures are scattered throughout the show, like saffron. My favorite is "Forging XI", that totem pole of raw power.
Don't miss the whispery room of photographs. Small and unexpected (Minor White an Abstract Expressionist?), these additions stretch the movement. There's also a considered attempt to resurrect a few also-ran painters, but unfortunately, in this company -- especially here -- their failings are all too obvious (aka no frisson
A museum-calibre show in the heart of tourist-country. Twenty stories above them
and sublimely quiet. Just you, the masterpieces (many from private collections), and security.
Abstract Expressionism: A World Elsewhere, at Haunch Of Venison
1230 Avenue of the Americas
through Nov. 12www.haunchofvenison.com
*Satisfy the urge at the Met. Satiate it in Denver in 2010:www.nytimes.com/2007/03/18/arts/design/18mado.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&sq=clyfford%20still&st=cse&scp=1
images, from top:
1955 M No 2, 1955
oil on canvas
96 x 114 in. (289.5 x 244 cm.)
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive / The Clyfford Still Estate
Another Storm, 1963
oil on canvas
94 × 176 in (239 × 447 cm)
Courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York/ 2008 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York