So what else did we see in New York this time around? Well our first move was a trip out to DIA:Beacon. Most impressive but it all seemed a little quaint now…the whole ‘greed is good’ ,over the top, size of it all, of the 70’s and 80’s…massive industrial halls in which singular (and to my mind intimate) ideas are stretched thin across oceans of space. As Ad said memorably “less is more” and here that’s definitely the case for me. So I’ll pass over Heizer, Le Witt, Sandback and, even Serra (though admittedly his use of the space to sculpt it has real menace) in favour of Agnes Martin and…Blinky Palermo. Who, for an artist who died nearly forty years back, is making a real splash in NY right now with strong showing in MOMA and a big event at David Zwirner’s gallery in Chelsea.
There’s a suite of three rooms devoted to Agnes and consequently an opportunity to look at her output in depth. The best of them sing off the walls in a quiet modulation but equally quite a few others, to my eyes, just don’t take off and in those cases the minimalist touch and form runs the real risk of inertia. Again maybe the sheer volume here is the culprit…I could have found six or eight amongst the group that if shown together in a single setting would have been spellbinding.
The Palermo showing is fascinating. There were two rooms one with an early piece – a kind of painted “object” and the other larger room dedicated to the suite of paintings on aluminium (everybody’s at it!) ‘To The People of New York City’. These relatively modest scale paintings on aluminium riff off of the German flag and a host of other sources, I immediately thought of Barnett Newman’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Red Yellow & Blue‘ pictures and those early Brice Marden panels…but there are plenty more.
Yet wherever Palermo plundered the work as a whole (forty pieces arranged in fifteen groups) the fact is they pull off that almost impossible feat of being strangely entirely their own thing despite the wealth of evident sources. Who knows where the artist may have gone had his life not been tragically cut short at 34? But whatever might have happened subsequently this body of work raises endless questions and possibilities for abstraction right up to the present and, I suspect, well into the future.