Time Out New York / Aug 16, 2010

"Le Tableau"

Arguing that postwar French painting never received its due from chest-beating American critics blinded by the glories of Abstract Expressionism, New York artist and critic Joe Fyfe has assembled a selection of work from both sides of the Atlantic in a modest attempt to redress the balance. Whether one is convinced by Fyfe’s somewhat inside-baseball thesis or not, it allows for the side-by-side airing of a variety of both well- and lesser-known artists, whose works are installed with a painter’s eye for formal contrast and coincidence. It’s also a reminder that the French, unfairly maligned or not, were responsible for a string of late-20th-century movements, including Tachisme and Support/Surface, posited on the expansion of painting’s material possibilities.

But while the show reaches back to Serge Poliakoff’s 1951 canvas, Orange et Bleu, “Le Tableau” is biased in favor of much more recent works, and these are—with some exceptions—the best in the show. The pairing of Fyfe’s own After Corot (2007) with Claude Viallat’s Untitled No. 318 (2008) is an effective one, both works switching out standard canvas for alternative fabrics. And the juxtaposition of John Zurier’s cool, calming Swedish Green (2), from 2006, with Jean François Maurige’s intense scarlet Untitled from the same year is similarly invigorating.

If “Le Tableau” is sometimes conceptually self-defeating in bundling modest European works with bolder American counterparts, the inclusion of a fiery Hans Hartung and a joyous Joan Mitchell diptych make it worth a visit, whichever side of the Atlantic one ultimately prefers.

Image: Serge Poliakoff, Orange et Bleu, 1951.