Art International
December 20, 1975
New York Letter
Carter Ratcliff

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Bob Duran (Susan Caldwell) continues to stain his canvases in configurations that suggest elevated views of patterned topography. The elements of his patterns have been elongated so that they often stretch from nearly the upper to nearly the lower edges of a painting. This introduces faint figurative suggestions of some sort. It’s impossible for vertical forms to avoid doing that. Duran appears to realize this, for the effect is very well-handled. It is an effect, obviously, which creates a tension with the more emphatic suggestion of a spread-out map. The tension is subtle, perhaps because it is mediated by newly softened colors—beiges, faded greens, blues and reds. Verticality enforces the surface in one way—“topographical” readings enforce it in another. Not so paradoxically, the triteness of modernist “flatness” is thus avoided: the literal surface is undercut as well as enforced from two directions. This sets the pictorial surfaces of Duran’s flat forms free to be seen in a variety of ways. Various aspects of “surfaceness” are perceived from moment to moment, and sometimes simultaneously in neighboring forms. This is a matter of perceptions which don’t admit of being described, nor are they available in photographs: Duran’s command of color, texture and scale is lost in any but immediate experience. This is not necessarily a criterion of excellence. Duran distinguishes himself by leading one to suspect that it is.