March 14, 2008

NYTimes Art in Review: Edward Wheeler and Edgar Bryan

Roberta Smith on Edward Wheeler (1912-92), a contemporary of Philip Guston (1913-80), who offered among the sharper alternatives to Abstract Expressionism. "Wheeler’s work started to resurface about 15 years ago. In the face of AbEx’s big scale, open gestures and abstract purity, he cultivated tightly wound geometries that were fiery in color, finely diced and full of hints of disjointed figures and faces. His style — sometimes called Indian Space Painting — took cues from Northwest Coast Indian and Pre-Columbian art, comic books and European masters like Klee and MirĂ³. The free-flowing pixelated compositions, while full of angles, owe something to automatist drawing." Read more.

"Edward Wheeler in Context," David Findlay Jr. Fine Art, New York, NY. Through March 22. Artists include Will Barnet, Gertrude Barrer, Robert Barrell, Byron Browne, Peter Busa, Stuart Davis, Howard Daum, Dorothy Dehner, Hananiah Harari, Roberto Matta, Bryan Osburn, Alfonso Ossorio, Richard Pousette-Dart, Robert Reed.

Roberta Smith reports that Edgar Bryan's first NYC solo is so low-key that he must be trying to prove something. "Deft subtlety disguised as wry, inept wistfulness has always been Mr. Bryan’s strength. Here he aims it at painting as a bravura activity: New York debuts as aggressive declarations; and oil paint as female flesh. Anyway, he’s using acrylic. Perhaps to come across as the anti-Currin or the un-Balthus, Mr. Bryan concentrates on two of painting’s oldest subjects, the female nude and the still life, the latter using only vases and jugs. Both kinds of 'vessels' seem made up, or borrowed from comic books, along with the alternately pale and saturated off-key palette....In the end you may find yourself watching Mr. Bryan’s every move in these sweet, sharp meditations. A self-portrait shows the artist crouching at a toy easel, working on a small, relatively thick-surfaced abstraction. The work personifies his central oxymoron: sincere irony." Read more.

"Edgar Bryan," Zach Feuer, New York, NY. Through March 22.

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