JNG presents a selection of works on paper showing different types of abstraction. On view are 2 watercolors by Cezanne in which the subject matter begins in nature and evolves into the application of color; a late watercolor on painted black paper by Kandinsky; several highly colored geometric abstractions from the 1940s by French artist August Herbin, who inspired op and pop art; several “Sprays” by American sculptor David Smith; and two works by Norman Bluhm who practiced gestural abstraction inspired by Sam Francis and Joan Mitchell. Current artists are represented by the second generation color field painter Kikuo Saito; by the richly painted oil on vellum of Gerard Mossé; and by a recent paper construction by Liliya Lifanova.
David Smith, Spray
In 1957, David Smith began using enamel paint from the newly available commercial aerosol cans which he sprayed onto a paper or canvas on which he had placed wood and metal objects, creating a kind of stencil. The resulting works called “Sprays” were a perfect blend of painting, drawing and sculpture.
In his 2008 NYT review of an exhibition at Gagosian Gallery, Ken Johnson described David Smith’s Spray paint works as follows:
“Your world may be rocked by David Smith’s spray paintings and drawings, contrived with a wily stencil technique that cushions crisp white silhouettes in clouds of color….they feel different. …complex, daring and pugnacious, like formalist graffiti art.
This simple approach was somewhat contradictory. It enabled Smith to experiment with sculptural compositions unimpeded by weighty materials and to make paintings almost devoid of traditional touch. But he also combined aspects of photographs, photograms, X-rays and blueprints while offering ghostly immaterial after-images of temporary assemblages….Smith clearly had fun making these works, but he wasn’t just fooling around. The basic technique was an especially mobile form of stenciling. Metal bars, scraps or tools were laid on bare canvas or paper and sprayed around the edges with one or more colors.”