Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Update on three promising artists. Here Monitor art critic Theodore F. Wolff gives progress reports on three painters, two of whom he has discussed at length before, and one who has only recently come to his attention.

By Theodore F. Wolff / January 26, 1987



New York

TERENCE LA NOUE's exhibition at the Andr'e Emmerick Gallery here is an unqualified success. It not only presents a number of his best works to date; it also celebrates his move to a gallery long associated with some of the best and most adventuresome art of recent years. Mr. La Noue's large, colorful, and profoundly contemplative modernist paintings are both beautiful and challenging, and they manage to refute the charge so often heard these days that modernism is dead. I'm pleased by his success - partly, I must confess, because I ventured several years ago to predict that La Noue would one day end up in the art history books, a prediction that now seems likely to come true.

Skip to next paragraph

La Noue, I suspect, is one of today's relatively few artists of whom the original modernists - as well as the great figures from 1905 to 1950 - would have approved.

He not only has a deep understanding of what they preached and produced, but has also carried the best of their tradition forward into a period of creative and critical confusion none of them could have anticipated. Significantly, he has done so without recourse to dogma or orthodox formalism, but has trusted to the spirit, values, and ideals of modernism to help him evolve his personal style.

He has, of course, also looked long and hard at the work of his modernist predecessors and at that of older and foreign cultures, and has thoroughly assimilated what he saw. La Noue, in short, comes totally into his own with this exhibition.

Not everyone, of course, will respond favorably to his work. Some may find it too abstract, dense, or demanding. And, paradoxically, others might find it too seductively beautiful or even too decorative. Should any of these reactions occur, I can only suggest that the offending paintings be given time and careful study. For, if they are, I'm certain they will shortly begin to work their own special kind of magic.

At the Andr'e Emmerich Gallery through Jan. 31. An excellent catalog with text and six color plates can be ordered for $8 postpaid from the gallery at 41 East 57th St., New York, NY, 10022. FREDERICK BROSEN, whose minutely rendered watercolors of urban views can be seen at the Staempfli Gallery here, is an altogether different kind of artist from La Noue. For one thing, he's a dedicated realist, and for another, his imagery depends for its impact on precise draftsmanship rather than on color or formal inventiveness.

Clarity and authenticity - both atmospheric and architectural - dominate, whether it be in a study of a deserted street in Brooklyn, a stark interior of an old building, a quiet corner of a park, or a bird's-eye view of Boston. And yet, because Mr. Brosen is a sensitive and astute artist rather than a topographical draftsman, the results are often extraordinarily warm and engaging.

``Lafayette Avenue at Canal Street'' and ``DeGraw Street, Brooklyn,'' for instance, are both first-rate ``portraits'' of their subjects and subtle reminders that cities exist for people.

Although men and women never appear in his pictures, one becomes increasingly aware of, and curious about, those who occupy the buildings and walk upon the streets he depicts.

Their very absence dramatizes their reality, for Brosen portrays the city in much the same way Van Gogh painted a pair of old shoes: lovingly, and with full awareness of the humanity that fills them.

My only reservations have to do with technical matters, with the occasional dryness of his execution, and the still somewhat ``tinted'' quality of his color. But I'm not concerned, for these latest works represent a significant advance over his 1983 show and justify my belief that he is well on his way to becoming one of America's better younger realists.

At the Staempfli Gallery, 47 East 77th Street, Through Feb. 7. GRAHAM CAMPBELL is an English-born painter who came to the United States in 1976 at the age of 30 to study, teach, and paint. If audacity, toughness, and a refusal to compromise are artistic virtues, then Mr. Campbell is a very virtuous painter indeed.

Everything about his dramatic, passionately painted canvases of oddly organic, vaguely mythic forms reflects these qualities - with the result that they are often difficult to empathize with and even more difficult to like.

But they are extremely powerful and provocative works of depth and daring. And, even if one does not particularly like what he has so far produced, it's clear they could lead to great things for Campbell.

At CDS Gallery, 13 East 75th Street, through Jan. 31.