Though there all along, the issue of using a shaped support came into particular focus during the 1960s as an emphasis on both the painting as object, its unnecessary privileging of easel painting and ultimately the expendability of using only a single rectangle. In “Shapeshifters,” now at Luhring Augustine, 19 artists are brought together who explore the possibilities of a shaped support as an optional formal development. But gone today are the conscious strictures and aesthetic divisions articulated in 1967 by Michael Fried in his germinal essay “Art and Objecthood,” though some of the exhibition’s earliest works are from that moment. There are works here that evince playfulness or Dada disregard for convention, such as Martin Kippenberger, for example, as well as a compositional exuberance of both materials and pictorial forms that ultimately set an overall shape. That is to say they find shape by an excessive build up of material itself, as in Jeremy DePerez’s Untitled (Unknown) (2016), or in working with one form or another, such as Imi Knobel’s Kartoffelbild 15 (2012) leaving those shapes to define an external perimeter edge.
Among the large-scale works in the main gallery, David Novros’s extraordinary 4:30 (1966/2000) is a multipanel painting that extends horizontally in four joined parts, two panels running horizontal and two at an angle. The parts are stepped alternately, allowing the wall to form inducted negative shapes to the positive shapes of the panels themselves. The pale tone of the white pearlescent paint changes color to a pink as the viewer moves and the light hits its surface differently. The modular panels identify the piece as an object within an architectural context — it’s as far away from the notion of painting as a window onto fictional space as can be imaged. This is now nothing to do with a perspectival view set in a rectangular portal; it is an encounter with organized physical elements in real space. Above the doorway to the other galleries is Blinky Palermo’s Untitled (1966) a nine-by-eighteen-inch black triangle of muslin over wood. This small work punctuates the architecture like a subtle votive object, altering the straightforward experience of passing through a doorway into a consideration of passing through a particular architectural space.
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