Step into Lawrence Markey's downtown gallery for a quick breather from the stress of the contemporary world. In the cool, Chelsea-like space it's still the last century, and the simmering supernova of global mash-ups has yet to radiate the art market and fuse with our pre-recession runaway consumption. This is pretty much always true thanks to Markey's aesthetic, which is rooted in minimalism, formal conceptualism, and clean geometric abstraction â?? and we're fortunate to have Markey back in Texas, where he fills in our modern-art education with carefully edited shows.
For reasons that seem obvious but are difficult to articulate, works which seven years ago might have appeared staid are comforting right now â?? stabilizing might be a better word â?? especially the suite of drawings by Brooklyn native Robert Moskowitz on display through July 2. Their power rests in both their manifest artistic ability and their unabashed singular presence.
An empty iceberg bobs on a leaden sea in a small oil-on-paper drawing. What are the almost imperceptible details that make it more than an abstract polygon? Staring at it, I could feel the icy calm of the night, the vast openness extending beyond the frame, the wondrous buoyancy of an immense object afloat. It's an exploration of form, but also of universe. In another economical rectangle, a bright-red cardinal balances two black birds at the other end of an ebony limb, animated extensions of the knotted branch, all of them stitched to some wintry field where spring is eternally overdue.
On the gallery's main wall, two mid-size pastel drawings on paper echo Malevich (who died the year that Moskowitz was born), but with the artist's own hand evident in the raised nap of the paper and in soft thumbprints and smudges that seem as random yet perfectly spaced as snowflakes. The symmetry of a thorny tree, its branches extending in a spiky archway from the center, cast an enervating fairytale spell that might swallow you whole when no one else is looking.
As enchanting as these works are, though, a brief chat with Moskowitz made me very sorry not to see more of his current paintings, which he described as large-scale, many of them balancing geometric abstractions with recognizable objects not unlike like the birds in the small drawing at Markey's. He's been using spray paint, and talked about the “fog of war” as one background influence, while reminding me that “my generation is not about what it's about,” and that he doesn't “know the meaning till afterwards.”
Go see what you can while the show's up, and while you're there, think about this, too: “Duchamp was really great,” Moskowitz said. “But he kind of made it available for anyone to become an artist.”
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