hilton kramer on olitski


It was inevitable, perhaps, that a pictorial style based on transparent veils of color would prove severely limiting. What may also have effected a change in Mr. Olitski’s handling of color was Greenberg’s death in 1994. It’s hardly news that Greenberg’s influence was central to the development of color-field abstraction; without that influence, it’s doubtful that color-field abstraction would have acquired the authority it briefly enjoyed. I don’t say this as a criticism of Greenberg, whose writings I very much admire (though I often disagreed with him). But I do believe that his departure from the New York art scene made it possible for certain artists—Mr. Olitski among them—to expand their pictorial horizons into areas of style and concept alien to his taste. Be that as it may, it’s my view that in the Matter Embraced paintings at Knoedler & Company, Mr. Olitski has created his finest work.

more from Kramer (you can’t keep on old formalist down) at the New York Observer here.