November 11, 1971
Robert Duran, a young New York painter who was doing sculpture up to a few years ago and has since emerged as a strong participant in the new painterly abstraction, attempts fairly large pictures (in the 7 by 7 feet range) but they are compact in relation to his former long horizontal formats. They form a progression of different treatments of a circumscribing border zone where, on the one hand, shapes true to the external edge and, on the other hand, face their effects as transitions to a more improvisatory and amorphous central zone where forms may be larger, unaligned with edges, and overlying and layering back to deepen the central space.
An earlier horizontal picture in the group, with nesting red and blue bands truing to the edges and with a luminous yellow area at center dramatized by a dark violet proscenium, comes close to re-inventing the Frankenthaler of Buddha’s Court.
A subsequent near-square painting grouped small forms in rectangular arrays along the border, which tends to separate markedly from and even frame a center area that recesses into depth. The latest and most generally successful group resolves the border with solid blocks of color irregularly spotted around it but continued in between by dissolving transitions. In these paintings center strongly relates to border. Among the best is a greenish square work where border and center areas balance with little sense of centrifugal pressure and the center space flattens considerably with seepage of color out to the canvas edges. Here there is retained something of the Baroque ceiling-painting quality of this work, but as an interesting resonance.