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Artforum
March 17, 1971
Robert Duran
Robert Pincus-Witten

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Recently, I attempted to create a rationale for the seeming happenstance placements of Richard Van Buren’s eccentrically shaped plastic reliefs in terms of similar shapes found at the same time in BOB DURAN’s painting of 1968–1969. The beauty of Duran’s present exhibition makes it clear that we must now clarify his development in terms of his own painting. The first mature works of which one became aware dealt with a means of structuring a surface attracted to erratic shapes, but which at the same time sought artistic confirmation in the retention of certain serial or Minimalist ploys. Duran’s painting of 1968 attempted to reinforce a grid organization through the location of thinly painted shapes at the edges of unpainted canvas squares. This established the illusion of the plane while permitting a comparatively free small-shape distribution to evenly spread itself all over the large canvas. Through 1968 and 1969 the shape lost its para-illusionist function in relation to the grid and gained its own expressive autonomy. The shape vocabulary tended to a kind of clipped ornamental figure not dissimilar to the patterns one finds in warp-printed textiles of Uzbekistan. The figure-ground duality inherent in such a compositional method grew to be discounted, so that by the end of 1969 Duran established the color of the ground by approximating the general drift of the ambiguous colors of the thinly painted figures. In the recent works we see a recidivism, the re-emergence of both the abandoned grid and a loosely illusionist figure-ground relationship. At times both are present in a single work. The color remains high key and laid down in a drawn-out acrylic of a generally roseate cast. The application appears more deftly sporadic and tremulous. I may be suggesting the possibility that Duran has come to the end of the orientation in which he set about to work some three or four years ago. Perhaps unsure of how to evolve in terms of substance rather than where to go in terms of style, Duran, in restating certain formal problems, appears to be husbanding energies and waiting.

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