Recently came across two dedicated and serious practitioners of abstract art – Dona Nelson and Jackie Saccoccio. I like their work, both of them, but my objection to it is what they have in common – they are both “big attack” painters. Greenberg’s idea of the “big attack” is not a bad one, in fact today it’s a kind of standard, and both of these artists have what that approach gives, namely strength, ambition, a sense of wholeness and completion – in a word, whatever competent and optimistic abstract painting feels like. All that I have no problem with, and how could I? What I don’t like is the reduction of automatic techniques like pouring and staining to an overall professional effect, though both these artists are more interesting than Richter or any of his epigones like Lucien Smith or Jacob Kassay. Actually, they both do work back into their pours to make some of the details count more, so I’m not sure if the problem is the amount of arbitrariness or the way it’s handled. Maybe my taste is starting to shift more into the American mainstream—a different and bigger problem. It’s the conventional that makes me twitch.
Nelson shows both front and back of her pictures, so her work connects with the tradition
of two-sided painting discussed on this blog. But they’re really not two-sided, more just front and back. I can’t help feeling that the way she shows the wrap around of the canvas indicates that the method is not quite resolved, but could be wrong. A Louis could be hung that way, to show the back, and it is interesting to do that, so maybe Nelson’s work is an art historically inspired type of self reveal.