200 words #28 / Robert Ryman

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Robert Ryman, Untitled, 1965 oil on canvas, 11-1/4″ x 11-1/4″ x 1-1/4″ (28.6 cm x 28.6 cm x 3.2 cm) © 2019 Robert Ryman /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

When asked about free jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis said ‘…the man is all screwed up inside.’ This wasn’t his definitive appraisal of Coleman, but it does capture the sense of bewilderment his tunes were, and sometimes still are, met with.

Robert Ryman, coincidentally born the same year as Coleman, moved to New York in the early 1950s to be a jazz saxophonist. For a while he worked as a guard at MoMA, where he was exposed to Abstract Expressionism at its brash and innovative best. The cumulative effect of hanging around so much painting – delivered from the disorder of the studio and hung to museum standards – got the better of him and he bought some paints and set to work.

Ryman’s paintings regularly suffer a similar fate of miscomprehension to that of Ornette Coleman’s tunes. Lazily tagged as monochrome because of the predominance of white, they are, more often than not, busy surfaces of carefully placed impasto on dense weave, often raw, canvas – the metal brackets on which they are hung sometimes left starkly, intentionally visible. Ryman’s attention to detail should be no surprise given the time he spent observing the painted world before ever dipping a brush.

Robert Ryman at The Phillips Collection

200 words #3 / Michael Krebber

Michael Krebber / MP-KREBM-00087

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Michael Krebber, MP-KREBM-00087, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 150 cm, 2015.                                      

© Michael Krebber, courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

We might think of a painting as finished when the decision is made to stop working on it. Having over-cooked a canvas or two however, a good painter will know what it feels like not to be able to undo something and call the previous mark the last.

The decision to stop is just one amongst a sum of decisions that make up a painting. In Michael Krebber’s work this decision making process is laid bare in the scarcity of visible marks. If we look at a painting as a sum of decisions that have been made, then the fewer marks we find on a canvas should mean fewer decisions. A painting with very few marks would suggest a type of Minimalism.

If Krebber’s painting can be called minimal, it is of a different order to that of say Robert Ryman, whose decision to use just one colour gives an illusion of economy. Michael Krebbers’ paintings operate in a condensed field where some marks are presented but all are possible, and where the first mark is equal to the last.

Maureen Paley – Michael Krebber

 

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