Zago's American vision -- and art's long-distance runner
In a little over two years, Tino Zago has gone from being simply one of the most promising artists to one of the best around. When I first wrote about him (see the arts page of June 26, 1980), he was still in the throes of painterly self-realization. His large, passionately done canvases - in which echoes of both Matisse and Marsden Hartley coexisted with elements of his own creative vision - were truly extraordinary - but still a bit unresolved. By the time of his next show 10 months later, however, he had made a quantum leap forward, and by his next, he had fully consolidated his gains.Skip to next paragraph
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In his current exhibition at the O.K. Harris gallery he stands fully and clearly on his own and establishes himself as one of America's majorcq younger painters. He has everything going for him: a marvelous way with paint; a subtle sense of color; a remarkable intuition for scale; a style that fuses several of modernism's best painterly ideas with a very American vision of space and landscape; and total painterly authority.
His canvases are large - several are huge - but that's as it should be. His art, after all, is celebratory and depicts the great out-of-doors. Or at least that's one reading of it, for these paintings of streams and ponds, with rocks, grasses, and branches of trees lining and intersecting them, could just as well be huge painterly explosions in the Abstract Expressionist tradition.
Either interpretation, although ''correct,'' would be much too narrow, however. To really perceive the point of these works we must resist calling them either representational or abstract and instead remain in a state of dramatic tension between these two extremes. Only then will these extraordinary paintings function for us as they were intended to by the artist.
This truly impressive and exciting exhibition will remain on view at O.K. Harris, 383 West Broadway in SoHo, through Jan. 29. Art's long-distance runners
There is no such thing as age in art. Longevity and experience, increased mastery and character, yes - the passing years generally do give an artist those. They have also been known to give an artist greater simplicity and focus, and to enable him to create more humbly and directly from within himself.
But age, and what that implies - no. Age never has had, and never will have, anything to do with art or with its creative processes.
If proof is needed - and I doubt any is in this season which has seen such ''long distance runners'' as Jean Dubuffet, Alice Neel, Louise Bourgeois, and the late Grandma Moses more than holding their own against artists several decades their junior - I offer in evidence the recent paintings of Esteban Vicente.
A number of these can be seen in Vicente's 80th birthday exhibition at the Gruenebaum Gallery here. To my mind it's his best show ever, with three or four paintings that top anything else of his I've seen. It proves conclusively that he is not only one of America's most dedicated abstract painters but one of its most subtle and sensitive colorists as well.
The works themselves continue to explore Vicente's longtime fascination with color luminosity - most particularly as it is evoked within rigidly two-dimensional spatial systems. And also as it is brought about by exquisite color placement, an extremely sophisticated painterly ''touch,'' and a wondrously shrewd way with line.
What Vicente can do with a small dash of green, a flash of icy blue, or a smudge of red has to be seen to be believed. His color relationships and dramas both stun and delight our sensibilities and cause us to wonder why we never before realized that that blue, and that gray, and that particular shade of red, when positioned next to a sliver of very light green, could create such an achingly beautiful effect.