MILES MCENERY GALLERY is delighted to present “The Responsive Eye Revisited: Then, Now, and In-Between.” The exhibition will open 14 January at 520 West 21st Street and will remain on view through 15 February 2020. A fully illustrated publication featuring an essay by David Pagel accompanies the exhibition. Pagel is an art critic who writes regularly for the Los Angeles Times as well as a Professor of Art Theory at Claremont Graduate University and an adjunct curator at the Parrish Art Museum.
Paying tribute to the Museum of Modern Art’s 1965 exhibition entitled “The Responsive Eye,” Miles McEnery Gallery’s presentation of “The Responsive Eye Revisited,” sets forth a reinvigorated take on the iconic exhibition. Emphasizing the wonders of the perceptual and cognitive experiences created by abstraction, “The Responsive Eye Revisited” spotlights the ongoing, boundless impact of abstract art.
In the climate of the mid-1960s, the original exhibition generated widespread discussion about the value of viewer interaction in contemporary art. “The Responsive Eye,” looked to the future — the artists aimed to break free from the boundaries of the past, charged with the prospect of art’s ability to do the unprecedented. Including a range of materials, they rejected the exclusive notion that art is an extension of its creator’s inner sentiments, and gave precedence to the viewer’s unique and intimate interactions with a work of art.
“The Responsive Eye Revisited,” alternatively, looks to the past while remaining firmly grounded in the present. The exhibition includes a selection of works by contemporary artists — Beverly Fishman, Warren Isensee, Markus Linnenbrink, and Patrick Wilson — alongside artists who themselves participated in the original exhibition or were active in the decades in-between — Josef Albers, Karl Benjamin, Gene Davis, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley, John McLaughlin, Kenneth Noland, and Al Held.
Illustrating an inclusive understanding of the power of abstract painting, “The Responsive Eye Revisited,” highlights how contemporary artists masterfully apply the medium of paint with a sensual quality capable of engaging both the mind and body. As David Pagel writes, “Although their materials are conventional, what they do with them is anything but. They make paint sing—silently and like nothing else out there.”
After an in-jest complaint to Adrian Joffe about the lateness of this show—it started four minutes early, at 9:11a.m.—he kindly disclosed that the shardlike obelisks of color fronting much of the shirting near the beginning were based on the art of Karl Benjamin. Some of these irregularly rhomboidal abstract hunks of color were laminated to produce a gently eye-catching sheen. Before the Benjamins—and even before the busily bashed-out piano cover of “Paint It Black” had begun—we saw two pleather-led looks featuring the wide-leg shorts and comely jerkin/harness that would feature here and there in other materials later in this show. Benjamin was an abstract classicist, so he made for a fitting contributor to a label dedicated to the aesthetic disassembly and reconstruction of classic shirting.
Examples of that this morning included shirting stripes on high-collar Comme-profile softly tailored cotton suiting, crisply finished hooded pullovers, and softly fish-tailed parka-profile outerwear. There was the old double-collar gambit nicely played via the addition of a wider Peter Pan fold around the conventional one. Shirting fabric was paneled into roughened, softly dyed fine-gauge knits. An arresting pink interlude lasted two suits: the first in drill and blotched with gray, the second in cotton and applied with a black graffiti-style tag print. Through a fugue of pocketed drab-sleeved shirts and round necks we hustled via a fresh khaki jerkin/harness moment toward hybrid shirts in two lengths, with vertical-striped backs and horizontal Benjamin rainbow-striped fronts. A section of collaged pattern patched shirting with purposefully roughened edging followed, before two shirt-striped jackets over punchily printed Benjamin shirting. Two further Benjamin color-block outerwear outings later, and this latest morning service at Comme’s hushed Place Vendôme high temple was all stitched up.
THE MURAL PROJECT
Karl Benjamin's unique geometric abstractions represent a masterful depiction of the "Hard Edge" style of painting. The mural will offer art students an invaluable perspective on a contemporary art form and hopefully inspire them to further explore various means of art expression and application of color.
Modern and contemporary art created in the American West, manifesting an independent spirit and embodying unique ideas, has been largely written out of the mainstream narrative of art history or placed in unhelpful contexts. Collecting on the Edge, featuring work by 172 artists from the collection of the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art at Utah State University in Logan Utah, aims to correct that situation. Texts accompanying each artwork, by eighty-one critics, art historians, curators, gallerists, artists, and collectors, provide illuminating insights into the works and their creators.
In an introductory essay art critic Michael Duncan exposes the provincialism and regionalist thinking that has dictated mainstream views of modernism: “Many of the nation’s most daring, innovative, and iconoclastic works have been ignored…simply because they were made on the wrong side of the Mississippi.” This extensive catalogue also includes a substantial interview with visionary collector George Wanlass, who amassed these works over a thirty-year period, providing a rare glimpse of his philosophy and practice. An inclusive rewriting of the traditional narrative, with new perspectives on artists both familiar and unfamiliar, Collecting on the Edge is a must-have resource featuring material unavailable online or through any other publication.