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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

MAN Is Right

posted by on November 14 at 17:30 PM

Blake Gopnik’s review of the Morris Louis retrospective at the High is terrific. Read it all the way to the end; Gopnik thoroughly wrests this fascinating painter away from the cold dead formalist hands of Clement Greenberg once and for all. He makes a case for Louis as a performer, a conceptualist, and generally an action painter unlike the others. The fact that nobody knows how the suburban Louis actually made his works is a fruitful mystery.

I’m a total Louis junkie, so I’m sympathetic. The pieces just grab me. Seattle Art Museum has a single Louis in its collection, given by (who else?!) Virginia and Bagley Wright. (They showed it at their space on Dexter a couple of years ago.) It is Alpha Mu, from 1961, the year before Louis’s untimely death, and it measures a glorious 8 1/2-by-13 1/2 feet. I don’t have an image of it, but it is one of the ones with an expanse of blank canvas at its center. Here’s another of those, and some more Louis. (And thanks, MAN.)

This is Alpha-Phi, also from 1961, at the Tate.


This is in the High show, dating the same year.


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Maybe something's wrong with me, but the canon of Abstract Painting seems more and more like a talentless joke these days. I guess it's good for funky wall decoration while people go to galleries and hang out.

The wikipedia entry for Louis has this to say - Louis destroyed many of his paintings between 1955 and 1957.

Probably a good choice.

Posted by jonathan | November 14, 2006 6:11 PM

Jonathan, good thing you didn't use your last name. If you had, you would be forever connected to that silly comment. The god of dumb luck smiled on you!
The review of this remarkable work should be read by the few non-Johathans out there.
The WA PO proves again that it is a much better paper than the NYT.
Ms. Graves you're A-OK!

Posted by m. Hertzmann | November 14, 2006 8:31 PM

Louis's paintings are really remarkable to behold. I went on a Napa winery tour some years back and the thing I remember most about it was the one painting of his that was on display in one of tasting rooms. My memory of its presence persists while those of the wine and landscapes are long forgotten.

Posted by Jim Demetre | November 14, 2006 9:33 PM

Jen is more than A-OK. Most of her posts are headstrong and worthy of consideration. I'll ignore them from now on since I've been put in my place.
I do appreciate your painting analysis Mr. Hertzmann, 'remarkable', simple, to the point. My remark is that I'll leave it at that. Oh yes, color theory! Yes, vibrant! Bye.

Posted by jonathan | November 14, 2006 9:41 PM

I love him.

Posted by craig | November 14, 2006 9:55 PM

I thought art historians had established that these paintings were made by Clyfford Stills' dog.

Posted by rodrigo | November 14, 2006 11:41 PM

wow. thank you for bringing this to my attention. i'll have to look into louis

Posted by josh | November 15, 2006 8:34 AM

"Clyfford Still was something of a maverick in the art world. In many cases, he disdained or was infuriated by anyone who tried to interpret his work, including art critics, art historians, patrons, and museum curators." :) :) :) :)

Posted by north dakota! | November 15, 2006 9:38 AM

wow, thanks, i've just looked into still

Posted by henri darger | November 15, 2006 9:52 AM


Much of his work is at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. Their website might be worth a look.

Posted by rodrigo | November 15, 2006 2:37 PM

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