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June 28, 2012

Gallery Watch: Three Monochromatic Summer Shows

By Maud Doyle | Art

Requiem for the Sun, Gladstone Gallery
Photo by David Regen / Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

Artistic innovation often follows in the wake of war, borne of both necessity and an urgent desire to record a changed landscape. In late-1960s Japan, this tendency gave rise to the Mono-ha phenomenon (“The School of Things”), which pulled away from a more traditional investment in objects, permanence and symbolism and moved toward ideas of perception and encounters, blurring the definitions of reality.

“Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha”—a monochromatic show of suspension and contingency done in grainy photographs, works on paper and sculptures built out of juxtapositions—opened last Thursday at Gladstone Gallery (through August 3; 530 W. 21st St.; 212-206-7606; gladstonegallery.com), in collaboration with Blum & Poe in Los Angeles. The disconcerting, eerily-lit land images of Koji Enokura call to mind the recent meltdown at Fukushima, and the smooth stones in pieces by Nobuo Sekine (pictured above) resonate with tension.

Two more monochromatic and somewhat ethereal shows also opened last Thursday: “More and Different Flags” at Marlborough Gallery in Chelsea (through July 27; 545 W. 25th St.; 212-463-8634; marlboroughgallery.com) and “Moving Spirits: François Morellet & Gerhard von Graevenitz” at Sperone Westwater (through July 27; 257 Bowery; 212-999-7337; speronewestwater.com).

The title of “More and Different Flags” is borrowed from a poem by Agnes Martin called “The Thinking Reed.” The show displays the work of 11 artists who “share a loose affinity with her approach” (Martin dealt in deeply subtle, densely deployed horizontal and vertical lines) but whose investment in lines and patterns is used to remarkably different ends. Look for Mexican artist Gabriel Dawe’s large-scale, floor-to-ceiling installation of rainbows of thread, and the smaller, layered infinitely subtle works of former diamond expert Yoshiaki Mochizuki.

In “Moving Spirits,” the hypnotic ’50s and ’60s Light-Kinetic works of friends Morellet and von Graevenitz are at once abstract and highly physical—to the point that they could almost be taken as images of the materials from which they are cut or made. The shows consist of individual mesmeric objects. But taken as a whole, pattern upon pattern begins to echo and the intended depth is lost. As the ending line of Martin’s poem says, “There are two endless directions. In and out.”