Featured Review: Gesture, Scrape, Combine, Calculate: Postwar Abstraction from the Permanent Collection

John McCraken, Mandala VI, 1972, acrylic on canvas, 72 by 72 inches.
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
John McCraken, Mandala VI, 1972, acrylic on canvas, 72 by 72 inches.

Featured Review: Gesture, Scrape, Combine, Calculate: Postwar Abstraction from the Permanent Collection The Kemper has arranged this predominantly painterly selection in clockwise fashion, beginning with works in grayscale (Tapies, Burri, Millare) engaged in various ways of tearing and stitching up a canvas (or, in the case of the occasional sculpture, metal) substrate. Then come works in color, from flat color fields (Olitski) to chromatic geometries (McCracken) to vibrant expressionism (Hartigan). And finally abstract surrealism (Gorkey and Matta). But this show is no greatest-hits album — more like a grab bag of random B-sides that cuts a ragged swath through the field of twentieth-century abstraction. In this context the scattered sculptural works are the most refreshing, given the increasing scarcity of serious three-dimensional forms in non-trivial materials: John Chamberlain's Hanging Herm, assembled from crumpled car parts (his signature material), is formidably immediate; Ibram Lassaw's spindly, armature-like Eden Now, in its gold-plating and delicately piled welding, feels like a large-scale piece of jewelry of an unfamiliar but contemporary brand. Through September 20 at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Forsyth and Skinker boulevards (on the campus of Washington University); 314-935-4523 or www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (closed Tue., open till 8 p.m. Fri.).

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