In the Galleries - Robert Motherwell: Abstract Expressionist CLOSES July 22 at SLUMA 

click to enlarge #5019 1991 Black Cathedral

Robert Motherwell

Black Cathedral

The son of a banker, educated at Stanford, Harvard, Columbia — Robert Motherwell was the antithesis of his fellow Abstract Expressionists but was doomed to be lumped in with them. Not surprisingly, the result was disparagement and praise in equal (and equally excessive) measure: Clement Greenberg crowned him the "best" of the Ab Exers; John Canaday deemed his work "pompous junk." Either way, he's enshrined in the canon, and his legacy of insightful critical writing and arts funding has secured his continued good standing. What's not as widely acknowledged is his prescience in regard to the more contemporary "provisional" tendency in painting — whereby subtlety, inconclusiveness and gestural nuance prevail over bombast, finitude and graphic clarity. Which makes this show of small-scale paintings, prints and collages all the more intriguing. The Gesture Series (1971), for instance, revels in the scratchy and barely there mark; In Beige with Charcoal (1973) is precisely that (beige ground, charcoal sketch). In that same spirit, the collages, which incorporate torn scraps of, say, French wine labels and cigarette boxes with rough swaths of color, possess a gorgeously crude immediacy. Washy, scribbled, playfully ill-defined — these pieces succeed in their very smallness, and in their insistence not to be anything more. Through July 22 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-2666 or Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

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