WILL BARNET at 100: Abstract Painting

Will Barnet, Enclosed II, 2009-10, 39 x 26 inches, oil on canvas

In the past few years we've seen a blooming of young painters exploring a sort of organic abstraction, particularly in Brooklyn, but really permeating the galleries everywhere. The recent success of Tom Nozkowski might have been one catalyst, opening the doors to his extended family and offspring. At any rate, there is no doubt still plenty of fertile ground to be cultivated creating dynamic arrangements of organic shapes with paint on canvas. The most inspiring example I know is Will Barnet, who turned 100 this year. Probably best known for his elegantly reductive and etherial figure compositions, he studied with Stuart Davis, and has devoted extended periods of his career to making abstract paintings that I think are his greatest contribution. His most recent, many of which were shown at Alexandre Gallery last spring, are his best. They are endlessly inventive works that derive their impetus from nature, and transfigure deep feeling and experience into eloquent form. The surfaces of these paintings are infused with a delicate and direct touch -- short, almost scumbled brush strokes that build the shapes slowly, deliberately, activating the whole surface, leaving bits of raw canvas at the edges of shapes. There is a wonderful tension between the authority and solidity of the compositions, and the delicacy of the color and surfaces. This work is a brilliant testimony to the vitality of an important painter, and to the continuing legacy of abstract painting.

Will Barnet, Inauguration, 2009, 32 x 32 inches, oil on canvas

Will Barnet, Conversations, 2009, 26 x 31 inches, oil on canvas

Will Barnet, Flight, 2009, 24 x 33, oil on canvas

Will Barnet, The Garden, 2009, 35 x 23 inches, oil on canvas

Will Barnet, Strolling, 2008, 30 x 35 inches, oil on canvas

Images from the Alexandre Gallery website.