Richard Pousette-Dart: LUHRING AUGUSTINE

Article excerpt

Richard Pousctte-Dart was there right at the beginning. Though he is known for his paintings from the 1980S9 which glow with pointillist orbs and spiritual awakenings, this exhibition, organized by Christopher Wool, of paintings and sculptures made in Pouscrte-Dart's East River studio during the '40s and early '50s, reminds us that he was the youngest of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists. Some of these paintings have never been shown publicly, and others have not been shown since their initial exhibition at Betty Parsons's gallery in the '40s. I he opening of this crypt thus exposes the work of a young artist from a very different era to a contemporary marketplace in which, as evidenced by the popularity of the Museum of Modern Art's recent de Kooning and Abstract Expressionist shows, a once difficult and controversial movement has been repositioned and domesticated by the passage of time.

The exhibition's timeline is surprising, in a way, because although these paintings date from the beginning of the AbEx movement, they seem somehow retardataire, as if they had been made later. The paintings" subjects bear the hallmarks of the Mythmaker movement, whose Jungian references and inkblot stylizarions have become templates for the art that is now standard issue in analysts' waiting rooms. The worked surfaces are both raw and overcooked, incorporating groundbreaking materials (for instance, industrial metallic paints and sand), yet mannered, open to the pull of decoration, which marks his later abstractions--intaglios of eternity, or of kitsch.

Through works dominated by line rather than volume, Pousette-Dart brings a filigree quality to Abstract Expressionism. This line reaches back to Surrealism through Matta, Klee, and Giacometti, yet ii also has the designerish, reproducible qualities that characterize line when it wants to be attractive and modernist at the same time. With this adaptation, the paintings anticipate the knockoffs that will come later and prefigure their own absorption into mass culture as high-end design in Alvin Lustig's New Directions book jackets, Eames fabrics, or film credits by Saul Bass. …


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