Larry Poons: New Paintings
By Peter Plagens
With his big Color Field "dot" paintings, Larry Poons was one of the stars of the Museum of Modern Art's 1965 "op art" exhibition, "The Responsive Eye." The same sort of work got him included as the youngest artist in Henry Geldzahler's famous (or infamous) "New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940 -1970," at the Metropolitan Museum a few years later. One of the most prolific and dedicated-to-painting artists of recent memory (Mr. Poons has made no diversions into sculpture, video or anything else), he has soldiered on: His "dots" grew into large lozenges (which were often painted on another surface before being transferred, with a rougher texture, onto the main canvas), and the lozenges in turn matured into overall cascades of murkily pastel paint (pictures often referred to as the "elephant skin" paintings).
These days, Mr. Poons, who at age 75 races motorcycles, paints on one continuous skein of canvas, sometimes as long as 90 feet, stapled to the wall of his vast studio, and then "finds" the individual paintings somewhere in his horizontal handiwork.
These pictures, according to an essay by the venerable critic Robert Pincus-Witten—written for a 2009 exhibition and reproduced by the gallery for this one—represent a passionate defense of painting and contain "traces of remembered Cézannes, [and the] intuited color of Matisse." True enough. Yet for all of Mr. Poons's expert and sensitive paint dispersal, the works engender more distanced respect than emotional response. In personal terms: I want to like them, to be moved by them, but find myself forestalled by a cool admiration of his painterly deftness.