I only just learnt of the death of Lawrence Carroll, some two weeks after the event. Following on from Thomas Nozkowski, whose fame in the world of art was greater I suppose, its very sad. Carroll I first came across back in 1992 on a visit to Documenta 9. In a single room I saw my first ‘ribbon’ Marden‘s in the flesh, ditto my first Jonathan Lasker‘s and my first sighting at all of Olav Christopher Jenssen. It was for any painter quite a sight and I was there for a long while.
Documenta 9 was quite heavily criticised at the time. Belgian curator Jan Hoet was a bit of an outsider, very pugnacious and quite opinionated it seems. I imagine he didn’t take prisoners. Besides which he used the opportunity to promote fellow countrymen (and most of those he selected from wherever were men) including now well-known Luc Tuymans, Thierry De Cordier, Raoul De Keyser and Jan Fabre as well as others less so, Michel Francois, for example. As an aside I’ve no problem with this – Hoet had an opportunity to showcase talent from Belgium on the wider stage and grasped it, putting someone like De Keyser into an arena one suspects he’d otherwise never have been recognised in.
He also had a ‘thing’ for the obdurate, insistent, gestalt object. Besides Carroll’s lumbering wall objects several other painters and sculptors could be grouped together. Michael Biberstein‘s canvas, Helmut Dorner‘s groupings of paintings and Anish Kapoor‘s Descent Into Limbo were just some of the pieces that made up a strong showing for ‘blank’ perhaps best exemplified by the inclusion of the grey paintings of Gerhard Richter.
But the Carroll’s have lived with me for many years now and although I have moved far from the idea of the ‘gestalt’ in my work I recall them fondly. His obituary by David Carrier tells of his life in Italy and also of his continuing career, mostly across Europe, rather than here or in the States. Sad to see him gone.
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.