4/17/10 12:43 PM
Is there really such a thing as pure abstraction? The early history of the form suggests not—even an artist like Mondrian relied on the world around him to generate his compositions. And why not? What in the world wouldn’t benefit from careful study by a painter’s eye, especially a painter who felt the freedom to then depart from those observations to generate something new from it that relies on color and line, brush and swirl? Such is the way with the best of David Newsome’s abstract canvases, which bask in the pleasure of striking color combinations and playful paint handling, while subtly acknowledging the world from which they at least in part derive. Hence the picture “Puzzle Men,” a witty, vibrant panel that, thanks to six carefully placed dots, taps the human desire to find anthropometric qualities everywhere. Hence the modestly sized series Newsome refers to as “Fractional Pieces,” gorgeous whirls of loose paint in ravishing fusions of color. Though utterly abstract, these paintings recall nothing so much as the precious endpapers with which books were once bound, before the days of paperbacks and mass-market hardcovers. Least exciting is a square picture titled “Kite Mosaic,” whose tacky, spongy surface and muddy colors feel grounded and dull, with none of the wild wondrous windiness that kite flying promises. Perhaps Newsome is more reader than flyer? Mondrian himself only abstracted those landscapes that truly jazzed him—let’s hope Newsome continues to do the same.