Radical: Monochrome Painting from the Goodman Duffy Collection

George Lawson Gallery
Oct 21, 2016 8:08PM

Wally Goodman and Patrick Duffy (seated front and center) with the group assembled in front of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY in May 2005 at the opening of the exhibition, “The Natalie and Irving Forman Collection.”

In the 1990s, Santa Fe became the unlikely focal hub for an international group of artists involved in the one-color painting movement. The draw to the Southwest desert for a number of New York, West Coast, and European painters was sparked in part by the same environment and light that had inspired Agnes Martin to move there and Georgia O’Keefe before her. Painters in the group such as Phil Sims and Alan Ebnother bought property and built studio homes outside Santa Fe. 

More practically though, the gathering to New Mexico owed more to the activities of Charlotte Jackson, a Santa Fe gallerist who specialized with great success in the reductive work of these artists. Her gallery enjoyed the steady support of a few major collectors focused on the genre such as Count Giuseppe Panza di Buomo, the heir to an Italian industrial fortune, and locals Natalie and Dr. Irving Forman, whose extensive holdings of Radical Painting were later bequeathed to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. 

Also supporting the scene were the Formans’ friends, fellow Santa Fe collectors Wally Goodman and Patrick Duffy. They managed to secure significant works in this period by artists associated with the monochrome movement, including the late Swiss painter Rudolf de Crignis, New York and California based Marcia Hafif, New York via Cincinnati painter Joseph Marioni, the late San Francisco painter John Meyer, San Francisco Bay Area painter David Simpson, and Los Angeles painter and maker Roy Thurston, amongst others.

Rudolf DeCrignis, untitled 01-23, 200, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm)

The discussion around one-color painting has sustained a dialogue amongst critics and curators, academicians, dealers and collectors, and of course the artists themselves, who spans four decades, outliving many of the movement’s practitioners and proponents. John Meyer died in 2002 and Rudolf de Crignis in 2006, Wally Goodman in 2008 and Irving Forman the following year; Panza died in 2010 and Natalie Forman in 2011. Wally Goodman and Patrick Duffy (seated front and center) with the group assembled in front of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY in May 2005 at the opening of the exhibition, “The Natalie and Irving Forman Collection.” 

Patrick Duffy now lives in Las Vegas where he continues to collect. His decision to release to the market a selection of historical works from this group is a significant event. These works represent cardinal examples of a conceptual approach to painting alternately dubbed as Radical, Fundamental, Aniconic, Pure, or Monochrome, depending on who is defining the boundaries. 

Joseph Marioni is credited with popularizing the term Radical Painting. He wrote and distributed a broadsheet in 1986 titled, “Outside the Cartouche: The Question of the Viewer in Radical Painting.” This piece was co-authored with the German painter Günter Umberg and contains an essay that is something of a manifesto in the old school style. During this formative period, Phil Sims favored Fundamental, taking his cue from the early exhibition “Fundamental Painting” held in 1975 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Marcia Hafif coined the term Aniconic Painting and wrote about her concept in articles in ARTFORUM in 1978 and Art In America in 1981. The terms Monochrome, or simply, Color Painting were more broadly applied by writers and curators with these designations stretching to include painting that used more than one color, as was the case with some of the precursors to the movement such as Ralph Humphrey and Jake Berthot, or the late adherents, such as Ingo Meller.

Typically in critical writing, the historical precedents of the movement are traced from the monochrome paintings of Russians Kazimir Malevich and Alexander Rodchenko, dating from 1915 and 1921 respectively, to works of 1960s Modernism, such as Robert Rauschenberg’s all-white paintings, Brice Marden’s waxen panels and the largely one-color work of Milton Resnick

Broadly speaking, one-color painting addresses the role, the contribution, of the object itself in creating a painted image. Painters in the 1970s began to incorporate the implications for painting achieved with the structurally oriented work of Robert Ryman, who called his all-white paintings “New Realism.” Viewed collectively, the individual nuances of paint handling and the material choices of these different painters take on a hyper-attenuated importance. The sensibility for looking at monochrome painting might be compared to the set of attitudes and expectations a viewer would bring to pottery, with the caveat that marking has a more articulated function in painting. In radical painting, mark making—that is, drawing—serves primarily as a channel to get at the paint. The focus of the image, whether it is color-as-light or a kind of splaying of the material pigment, lies in the paint itself more than in what has been done with the paint. 

The role that this radical approach as a concept played in the discussion of painting’s ongoing relevance is significant, a conversation sustained on both coasts and in Europe throughout the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Included here are artists ostensibly peripheral to the main group. Ralph Humphrey’s signature style precedes their ascendency, but his early attention to the object anticipates the gist of their concerns. John Beech was associated with the group though he is preponderantly an object maker rather than a painter. Ingo Meller took the tenants of monochrome and extended its material concerns into what could be deemed a polychrome solution. 

The selection for this exhibition is limited to available works from the Goodman Duffy collection and is by no means exhaustive, as a more inclusive roster of the movement might include, in no particular order, from New York: Frederic Thursz, Erik Saxon, Merrill Wagner, Anders Knutsson, and Susanna Tanger amongst others; from the West Coast: John Zurier, Anne Appleby, James Hayward, Joseph Hughes, and others; from Europe: Olivier Mosset, Günther Umberg, Peter Tollens, Ulrich Wellmann and so on. 

Amongst the art dealers (again in no particular order) who supported this approach to painting during these decades could be included Julian Pretto, Eric Stark, Peter Blum, Klaus Nordenhake, Rupert Walser, Dr. Luise Krohn, Shirley Cerf, Kiyo Higashi and others, and in turn, the many collectors who supported their programs. Historians, curators, and writers who championed the movement include the late Dr. Bernd Growe, Erich Franz, Lilly Wei and John Yau. New York gallerist and writer Klaus Kertess played a generative role. A full and inclusive historical survey of the movement is overdue. The present exhibition, although modest in scope, is important in its focus and the quality of the selection, a testament to the eye, the discernment of both Goodman and Duffy. 

—George Lawson


I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to Patrick Duffy for his support of this event.   

George Lawson Gallery