Art in Review
By PEPE KARMEL
Published: July 21, 1995
You can't go home again. The work in this exhibition, organized by the painter Richard Kalina, suggests that artists are going back to color, but that color itself can no longer be treated as a purely formal issue: real-world references and meanings keep leaking in. Two drawings by the Washington Color School veteran Gene Davis provide a reminder of the heroic 1960's, when the stripe seemed like the ideal vehicle for the investigation of "pure" color. But close on their heels comes a 1995 "painting" by Polly Apfelbaum in which strips of colored velvet are superimposed on a striped bed sheet. The viewer moves abruptly from the heights of abstraction to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where the walls of shops are lined with bolts of discontinued fabrics.
A large purple-black monochrome canvas by Phil Sims recalls Ad Reinhardt, but its Zen-transcendental associations are immediately deflated by Byron Kim's four nearby canvases, each one painted a different shade of pale green in imitation of Korean celadon ceramics. In canvases by Shirley Kaneda and Mr. Kalina, familiar patterns and images are juxtaposed to produce meaning by association: color here serves as a kind of glue, binding together the disparate elements of the work.
Color steps forward to take a leading role in a large portrait by Alex Katz, in which the model's facial features seem to be merely an excuse for the juxtaposition of orange, pink and red, and in a "Slate Diptych" by Winston Roeth, in which the tempera colors (deep purplish blue and greenish brown) are imbued with remarkable power by the density and irregularity of the roof tiles onto which they have been painted. Color here appears as an element, not of a cultural stereotype, but of reality itself. PEPE KARMEL