It's always pleasure to discover that a painter is better than one had thought. Even more wonderful to discover that he is responsible for the creation of a few gems of painting.
such if the case with Maurice Golubuv, whose 55-year retrospective is on view at the Jewish Museum here.
I had, over the years, seen a few of Golubov's works and had always found them accomplished -- if a bit too stylized and severe for my taste. Compared with what was happening in American art during the postwar period, his paintings seemed a little old-fashioned, and generally more in the spirit of the 1930s and '40s than of the 1950s and '60s.
But quality, as the saying goes, is not defined by fashion. Golubov went his own way at his own speed, and continued to paint what his won realities dictated. Because her persisted, and because he is an artist of talent and intelligence, it is now quite apparent that some of his works will outlast quite a few of those by some of his more dramatic and self-serving contemporaries. A few of his paintings (especially the miniatures painted and drawn between 1948 and 1969) are actually first- rate minor works of art which should go directly into museum collections.
Not all of them, however. While such tiny gems as his 1969 "Untitiled" and both versions of "Soul's Journey" (1962) demand the most serious critical respect, and such larger works as "Red and Black" (1965) and "Fourth of July" ( 1966-67) would hold their own almost anywhere, it is also unfortunately true that a few of his largest pieces, such as his huge "Untitled (Abstract)" of 1954 , don't quite make it. They are either too "thin" or too complex -- even a bit cluttered ("Metropolis") -- and don't, as a rule, rise above being merely the sum of all their parts.
There aren't many of these, however, and the relatively few that are included don't seriously weaken the overall effect of the show.
That effect is quite impressive. In addition to the works mentioned above, I was also very taken by a series of smalish figure studies executed in the 1960s, and by a few of the bulky and warmly painted compositions of his early years. There are also some intriguing images based on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
This excellent exhibition will remain open to the public at the Jewsih Museum through Aug. 23.