Art In Review; William Scott April 2004

Published: April 16, 2004

Denise Bibro Fine Art
529 West 20th Street, Chelsea
Through June 5

Pots, dishes, fruits, vases and other domestic shapes form the basis for much of the Scottish-born painter William Scott’s imagery. But the beauty part is that they are reduced to lyrical, luminous ghosts of themselves.

Scott (1913-1989) was a figure of some importance in post-World War II British art and well known in New York, too, as he was in the 1950’s the first British artist to meet and take cues from artists of the New York School like Pollock and Rothko. His reputation has survived: in 2001 his work was displayed for a year in a room devoted to it at Tate Modern.

The small but engrossing show here makes a progression from 1954 to 1976-77. In the rather sluggish, still groping ‘’Composition III’’ of 1954, heavy black painterly lines shape two vessel-like elements on a richly painted bluish-gray field, broken up by the lines and divided by a painterly yellow vertical. But by 1960 a much more fluid painting takes the eye: ‘’Blue, Grey, Blue.’’ Ectoplasmic linear shapes, conjured from a dense blue-gray ground and outlined in white, seem to move almost musically along the width of the canvas.

In ‘’Still Life Painting’’ (1974), hard-edge reductivism rules in a composition of four still life forms appearing within a creamy, rounded rectangle on a luminous brown ground. A really pared down canvas, so to speak, is the wonderful ‘’Orchard of Pears 14’’ (1976-77), in which six simplified bright green pears, each with a different persona, float coolly on a ground of deep dark green brushed with a brighter, lighter green.

Somewhere along the way, Scott got it just right, and in these spare but sensual paintings shape, space and color play beautifully together.

GRACE GLUECK

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