Color Me Bored / Color Me Glad
Colored Pencil at KS Arts; Lori Bookstein’s stable

By Maureen Mullarkey


A very different kind of ensemble hangs at Lori Bookstein Fine Art. The gallery debuted in new midtown digs with a sampling of its contemporary stable plus a selection of earlier modernists. With only one piece from each artist, a certain staccato quality to the installation is inevitable. But that is okay in a tasting menu that gives you the flavor of the house. The exhibition coheres around the gallery’s commitment to American painting . Special emphasis is on American modernism and the legacy of Hans Hofmann. Expect fine color handling in a variety of idioms, from traditional to abstract.

Ken Kewley; from "Dressing Room" series

The Hofmann connection is handsomely represented by Paul Resika, Jan Müller, Bob Thompson and Aristodimos Kaldis. Robert De Niro, Sr., the least substantial of the group, is also aboard. Louis Finkelstein and Walter Buckner are pleasurable companions, each using color to arrive at their own species of pictorial space. Ignoring chromatic range in favor of the tonal satisfactions of the gray scale are Susannah Phillips and Gerald Auten.

Before Hofmann there was Arthur B. Carles, one of the most dynamic of the elder American modernists. “Landscape through a Window” (c. 1908-12), is too small and too early to convey the excitement and character of his achievement. Still, be glad the gallery has access to his work and, presumably, will exhibit more of it. Marsden Hartley, Alfred Maurer and Ralph Albert Blakelock, possibly the most imitated (and forged) of all American painters, are also on view.

Arnold Friedman is not exhibited often enough. There is a strange poetry to his painting that comes from modesty before his motifs in tension with a distinguished color sense and deliberated brushwork. His “Woman in a Brown Dress” (c. 1930-32), a subtle harmony of browns and greens, is a pleasure to find.

This is not the place for tracking the batting averages of art stars. Gallery preferences tend toward gifted practioners who keep producing and perfecting their craft without regard to fashion. And without looking over their shoulders to see which names are gaining on them. Sculptors Louise Kruger and Bruce Gagnier are among these. Ms. Kruger, once apprenticed to a ship builder, combines command of joinery with a keen sense of form. Her tulip wood “Figure of Man,” rounded like a ripe seed pod, is a whimsical complement to Bruce Gagnier’s unsettling “Otoma,” whose stressed musculature is weighted with anxiety.

Do not miss the three collagists. Ken Kewley, a vivacious colorist, abstracts from visual experience with a scope greater than his miniature format suggests. Henry Rothman and Janet Malcolm are more cerebral, constructing illusory space out of abstract elements. Each one, in quite different ways, achieves a spatial cohesiveness that is deeply gratifying.


“Group Show 2004” at Lori Bookstein Fine Art (37 West 57 Street, 212.750.0949).

A version of this review appeared in The New York Sun, April 29, 2004.

©2004 Maureen Mullarkey 


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