Mark Williams, Untitled, 2008; Julian Jackson, Mistral #1 & #2, 2008, Judith Murray, Cross Current, 2008; Stephen Westfall, Tinker, 1997
Just opened at The Painting Center in Soho, through Sept. 27, is a large and diverse exhibition of small works by members of the venerable American Abstract Artists organization (est. 1936), and dedicated to one of its founding members, Esphyr Slobodkina (1908-2002), an underrecognized woman who worked in a lyrical cubist mode and was a tenacious advocate for abstraction in the 1930s and 40s. Hung salon style in the small Painting Center spaces, the show includes works by 75 artists, young and old, exploring a broad range of approaches to abstract painting and sculpture. The majority of the work is of the reductive and geometric persuasion, but there are also plenty of other approaches represented. There is so much work here that it takes a bit of time to begin to focus on the individual pieces, but once you do, it becomes evident that the vast majority of these small works are operating at a very high level of clarity. Most of the artists submitted high quality recent works, but there are also a few earlier pieces, like a wonderful Alice Adams tapestry from 1965 and a 1979 Thornton Willis, that are treats to see. There are also many interesting relations among the pieces made visible by the installation, including one long wall of works in black and white. What is most evident here is the astonishing variety of deep investigations and continuing possibilities within the tradition of abstract painting, to which this show serves as both tribute and perpetuation.