In ArtForum Ian Bourland recommends Helmut Federle’s exhibition at Peter Blum, which may not be spectacular, but that’s the point. “In an art market in which painting jostles with photography and sculpture in pursuit of epic scale or self-conscious smartness, the exhibition of delicate, smaller paintings is a breath of fresh air. ‘Scratching Away at the Surface’ is a suite of five canvases from a series of nine that explore rotations around their geometric centers. Paint is applied here in thin washes so that even as the intersecting planes of color collide and accumulate, the luminosity of underlying layers shines through.
“At first the paintings feel unremarkable, which is unsurprising: Federle is a veteran of the European exhibition circuit, and he appears here like a relic of the 1970s, working through painterly problems of color, facture, and the formal possibilities of abstraction. Make no mistake: This is the strength of the show, which rewards repeat viewings with a quiet, numinous tranquility. In looking at these paintings, the tension between the cerebral and the spiritual running through German painting since the Romantic period is made manifest, distilled to its barest essence.”
Read ArtForum Critics’ Picks.
“Helmut Federle: Scratching Away at the Surface,” Peter Blum Soho, New York, NY. Through January 9, 1010.
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