March 21, 2009

NY Times Art in Review: Leon Kossoff and Xylor Jane

"Leon Kossoff: From the Early Years, 1957-1967," Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, NY. Through March 28. Roberta Smith reports: This show is an informative treat. The early paintings of the British artist Leon Kossoff are not well known in this country. No American museum even owns one. Of the 10 works here, all but one are portraits or nudes painted when Abstract Expressionism was peaking, and Pop and Minimalism were ascendant. Mr. Kossoff, born in London in 1927, was in his 30s.Their first impression is of the artist as a mumbling, stumbling brawler. The thick surfaces and ridged images seem pugnacious, painted with fistlike brushes. The subjects are more enchained by paint than depicted. Add a palette of muddied colors and the effect tends toward dour and inarticulate.

"Xylor Jane: N.D.E.," Canada, New York, NY. Through March 29. Roberta Smith reports: Xylor Jane shares with many painters a sense of touch, color and craft, but she has something else: a private, intuitive mathematics in which prime numbers, calendars and the passage of time figure large. Her systems add another wrinkle to the use of grids (Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt, Jennifer Bartlett), progressions (Donald Judd, Mario Merz) and counting (On Kawara, Roman Opalka) in modern art. Ms. Jane’s grids are superfine; their squares are anointed with a single slightly raised dot of color or they are left blank to form negative motifs defined by surrounding dots. In the most amazing works these motifs are extended numbers that repeat down entire surfaces, forming columns of pattern that fade in and out of legibility, as in the rainbow spectrum of “13,831” — a prime number that is also a palindrome.....The stunning variety and handmade imperfections of Ms. Jane’s art reflect its autobiographical nature. N.D.E., the show’s title, stands for Near Death Experience, in reference to one she recently had. Her counting systems often begin with her birthday and measure different periods of her life. In ways alternately explicit and subtle, her work reveals the miracle and the drudgery of art-making as well as the wonders of the human mind and its needs.


Read the entire "Art in Review" column here.

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