The Easel

4th June 2019

Frank Bowling, an overlooked star of British art’s golden generation

Bowling’s first retrospective has critics puzzled as to why he has been so long ignored. Is it race (he is from Guyana), his unfashionable abstractionism, or perhaps his avoidance of a signature style? Recognition from the London art establishment has been scant – New York has been more welcoming. Not that Bowling has been put off at all – “I still get a lot of juice out of abstraction.”

Brancusi and America

Brancusi felt a debt to America, its openness to the new. In return he has been “the fountainhead” of American sculpture. Listing his undoubtedly numerous innovations tends to obscure where his true greatness lay. An earlier critic is more specific – “his rapturous feeling for surfaces … [and endowing] his forms with something of the clarity and finality of law”.

28th May 2019

Critique of Inequality Is Aimed in All Directions at the 2019 Whitney Biennial

The Whitney Biennial aims high – to profile “relevant and important” American art. As you might expect, it can’t satisfy everyone. Increased diversity of artists represented gets applause. From there, complaints. For one “There’s a lot to like … but there’s not a lot to love.” Another laments an absence of “the irresponsible joy of aesthetic experience”. Images are here.

The Contrarian Modernism of Fairfield Porter

With his family wealth, Porter could afford to be contrary. New York was agog with boisterous abstraction but, having seen a Bonnard show in Chicago, Porter chose figuration. Landscapes and interiors best showcased his colourist abilities. One interior, a “low key visual symphony” seems to celebrate paint itself; maybe he was “a covert abstractionist after all”.