Can an artist stay out of the limelight and make art that matters? America’s favorite unknown dead painter, Albert York says yes. Introverted, reticent, and a loner, the Detroit-born York became a successful artist despite doing just about everything to make himself disappear between the early 1960s and his death in 2009. Nonetheless, his fan base included the painter Fairfield Porter and ex-first lady Jacqueline Onassis. Now art writer Joshua Mack has teamed with dealer Matthew Marks to mount “Albert York” at the latter’s eponymous gallery in Chelsea. A mesmerizing show of 37 small gems, it is the most comprehensive York exhibition to date.
York painted most objects as though he were seeing them for the first time. Even today his pictures insist on the sturdy monumentality that inhabits the solidity of simple subjects. Two Zinnias (circa 1965) depicts a pair of puce flowers resting on a cream-colored surface; their rounded petals and cut stems contrast strikingly with the panel’s black horizon, suggesting liftoff into nothingness. A second amazing feat of visual compression is the artist’s imagist stunner Wheelbarrow (1974), whose reds, browns, greens, blues, and mauves yield a visual haiku so objective that if you concentrate, you can smell the chicken shit (and hear William Carlos Williams). Editor’s note: Look for Viveros-Fauné’s full review of “Albert York” in the December 10 issue of the Village Voice.
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. Starts: Dec. 5. Continues through Dec. 20, 2014