Monday, March 11, 2013

Al Held: Alphabet Paintings @ Cheim & Read

The current Al Held exhibit, at Cheim & Read, Alphabet Paintings, has been getting a lot of coverage and is, understandably, a favorite among painters.
In this post I wanted to focus on an aspect of the work that was particularly meaningful to me - the edges of the canvas where they wrap around the stretchers. These random details are important to me for a couple of reasons. First of all, the haphazard smudges and smears emphasize the painterliness of these humongous works.  This was my first look at these paintings "in the flesh" and I was surprised at the extent to which the artist's hand was evident.  The sides of the canvas, along with brush marks, and the often thick, clotted, and revised surfaces force the paintings to inhabit a no - man's land between minimal, hard edged, conceptually driven work and a more improvazational approach most often associated with the New York School that brings process to the fore.
Secondly, the marked up edges go a long way to assert the paintings as objects. The spattered stretchers along with the shear size of the work, highlight a bold physicality that cause the paintings to invade and take possession of the viewer's space. 

" I want to give abstract expressionism structure."
"I just don't want to express myself, I want to say something."
-Al Held

Al Held: Alphabet Paintings
February 28 - April 20, 2013
547 W 25th Street
New York, NY 


Louise P. Sloane said...

A wonderful show - the true meaning of awesome. The glow from the room honored to have the yellow painting on it's wall is simply amazing!

Jeffrey Collins said...

Being able to see paintings like this in person, to see all the looseness and roughness of the paintings is something you can't get in regular art books. Seems only artists are interested in other parts of paintings than just the surface. The photos on other pages make them look all nice and neat, but these really show the grit that they have, and I think it's that grit which gives them the power they have.

Thanks Paul!

Paul Behnke said...

Jeffrey- I agree!