“Breaking Boundaries: Early American Abstraction, 1930-1945” at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

Ed Garman, Untitled (1914), oil on canvas board, 20″ x 16″; courtesy Beth Urdang Gallery

* * *

Should the Kraushaar show pique your fancy, you’ll want to head west on 57th Street to the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, which is showcasing a few of Slobodkina’s peers (and some of her betters) in the exhibition Breaking Boundaries: Early American Abstraction, 1930-1945. Rosenfeld can slap together a show like this merely by having the cleaning crew take a vacuum to the storage racks, but that doesn’t mean what’s been displaced isn’t worth your time. Be patient with the work: What first appears to be a musty array of Modernist pastiches turns out to be quirky or eccentric or endearingly homespun.

The painter Carl Holty transmutes Miró by channeling Barney Google; Theodore Roszak indulges in a Suprematist pun by riffing on a sewing machine; Charles Shaw proves himself adroit at investing simple forms with balletic wit; Burgoyne Diller gets away with sculpture by hewing to the logic of painting; and Ed Garman—well, the transcendentalist yearnings he commits to canvas have the punch and pizzazz of a pinball machine. You’ll have to ask at the front desk if you can take a look at the picture—Mr. Rosenfeld has the Garman squirreled away in the back office. You can’t blame him for not wanting to share: It’s an upper of a painting and the best thing here.

© 2004 Mario Naves

Originally published in the October 25, 2004 edition of The New York Observer.

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