Magazine article Artforum International

Larry Poons: Loretta Howard Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Larry Poons: Loretta Howard Gallery

Article excerpt

The strangest item in this small exhibition of early work by Larry Poons was a brief, grainy audio recording of a short-lived rock 'n' roll group called the Druds. Formed by Andy Warhol in 1963, the Druds released no records and never once performed live, yet they are remembered today for a lineup that is almost comically auspicious: Walter De Maria on drums, La Monte Young on saxophone, Poons on guitar, and Jasper Johns, Patty Oldenburg, Lucas Samaras. and Warhol himself singing. A star-studded cast, indeed, but even illustriousness can fall flat. The track, "No More Apologies," is a case study in toe-curling dissonance, with Oldenburg's unhinged caterwauling clashing unbearably with Johns's basso-profundo backing vocals and Poons's rough, clanging guitar. It's bad. But still, it sure sounds like they were having fun.

And that quality of fun provides an illuminating if not instructive backdrop to the five paintings made between 1957 and 1959 that were also presented in the show's first room. An astringent group of hard-edge and geometric abstractions, these works evoke, above all, the image of a bow-tied nebbish methodically plotting from the grid: Take, for example, McAree, ca. 1958, with its misaligned yellow and red lines defining a circle and square. Yet, as the Druds recording reminds us, these paintings were birthed not from a dry pursuit of Green bergian opticality, but rather from a wild, booze-soaked bohemia. A favorite is the hard-edge Florentine, ca. 1958, with swaths of bright orange and forest green fitted together at sharp angles.

Things really got going in next room, where the gallery presented two of Poons's later dot paintings--stunning, large expanses of unmodulated color that sport scintillating allover patterns of small ellipses and spots. One, Imperfect Memento: To Ellen H. Johnson, 1965, is backed by bright orange and is some fifteen feet wide; the other, Jessica's Hartford, also 1965, features a field of luminescent lime green behind spots of orange, lavender, sky blue, and mint green. Many of the dots are the chromatic opposite of the ground, and as the eye twitches while sustaining its gaze, a flurry of tiny afterimages appear and fade away; one encounters real difficulty discerning which dots are real and which are an optical effect. …

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