Review of William Perehudoff Exhibition
November 14, 2013 - Piri Halasz
Berry Campbell is a new gallery, formed by the partnership of Christine Berry and Martha Campbell, two bright young graduates of Spanierman (which has concurrently relocated to West 55th Street, near 12th Avenue).
For their inaugural exhibition, Berry Campbell has chosen to feature William Perehudoff, a Canadian color-field painter who was born in 1919 and died only last February at the ripe age of 93. He is well-known in Canada, though less known here.
Like Poons, Zox and even Feeley, this artist became associated with color-field painting in the 60s, but instead of going back to that period, Berry Campbell has chosen to exhibit more recent work in “William Perehudoff: Color Field Paintings from the 1980s” (through November 16).
This was a courageous choice, as color-field painting is so firmly lodged in the public mind as a phenomenon of the ‘60s. I suspect that from the Chelsea walk-in traffic, the gallery owners are getting a certain number of dummies saying, “I didn’t know there was any color-field painting in the 80s.”
However, from an esthetic point of view, the decision is fully justified. From start to finish, this is a beautiful show, full of pictures made by an artist no longer in his preliminary stages, but having attained full command of his powers.
To be sure, there are none of Perehudoff’s marvelous large paintings from the period on view. The small space of this gallery—jammed to overflowing at the opening—wouldn’t have permitted it, nor would shipping them from Saskatoon have been feasible.
But I was happy to meet the artist’s daughter Rebecca Minton at the opening—having been introduced to her by Cara London – they first became friends when they were both painting at the Triangle Artists Workshop, back in the early 80s. I understand the artist’s two other daughters, Catherine and Carol, were also there.
I saw something a while ago on artcritical.com to the effect that abstraction in the 80s in the U.S. generally became more fluid and open. This certainly applies to the works of Jules Olitski and Larry Poons, the U.S. artists by whom Perehudoff would most likely have been impressed, and it applies to him as well.
However, his own brand of “fluid and open” is not at all like theirs; he was firmly committed to a figure-on-ground approach—and even more firmly committed to a palette with vigorous contrasts between dark and bright. None of this “close value” nonsense for him!
Also, his paint is thinner for the most part, sitting sedately upon the canvas instead of rising to confront the viewer.
Most paintings at Berry Campbell have dark, soft, rich fields, with lighter and/or brighter, sometimes slightly thicker paint laid on in strips or circular glowing shapes at the center, which are also surrounded by strips.
And the touch is so sensitive! The paint is just laid on, ever so carefully, nothing swashbuckling about it. Just – at its best – plain wow.
My only complaint is the names of the paintings, or what passes for names but are really only letters and numbers.
A typical title is “AC-87-023.” It belongs to one of the outstanding paintings in the show, with a gold stripe laid across the top of its dark field, a yellow down stroke at the far left, a mauve one at the far right, and a row of mint green and gray closing the figure at the bottom.
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