New York “Infinite Patience” draws together three artists who have been developing their approaches and iconographies since the 1970s. What unites the trio—James Drake, Kunié Sugiura and Stanley Whitney—is a “not-quite” sensibility, a willingness to resist categorization. Sugiura, in works dating from 1969 to the present, brings photography to the canvas along with painterly techniques, anticipating, in her early images, today’s multi-platform, multimedium approach. In five of her 11 works shown (the canvases range from 37 by 28 to 60 by 84 inches; three date to the late ’70s, two are 2008), Sugiura pairs a photograph with a panel of single-color acrylic; the photos’ subjects range from couples in coitus to cityscapes. The results are eerily close to the graphic and pictorial conjunctions that all of us encounter online every day. In the newer works, which are inkjet on canvas, Sugiura seems to acknowledge the parallel, but with some mourning—the cool, perfect printouts lack the sympathy of the older, photo-emulsion prints.
Stanley Whitney’s paintings—nine oil-on-linen grids (2006-08)—chafe at the constraints of geometric abstraction. Whitney falls more readily into the company of Mary Heilmann than, say, of Ad Reinhardt, engaging cultural references with the fluidity of Pop art. Whether in his smaller, 12-inch-square paintings or the larger (96-by-70-inch) examples, one feels the influence of American crafts—quilting and Native American basket weaving—as well as musical affinities. Loosely drawn and painstakingly imperfect, Whitney’s lattices bring to mind the discordant repetitions of Thelonious Monk. The paintings’ colors, predominantly primaries and secondaries, evoke dyed wool, knitted tight.
James Drake is represented by works on paper made over the last 10 years that bring politics to traditional figure drawing. His Beto Jaurez Gets High (24 by 15 inches, 2006) and Fat Boy (96 by 70 inches, 2008) share a contemporary pathos: Beto’s cusp-of-society attribute is a joint; Fat Boy’s is his girth. Classical in its lines and proportions, Drake’s draftsmanship is put in the service of describing a revolution that burned out. The drawings shown here, executed in a variety of sizes—the largest work is 114 by 80 inches—and mediums (including charcoal, graphite and such collaged elements as bits of canvas, tape and photocopied imagery), inhibit viewers’ inclination to identify with their subjects. In the single sculpture shown, in which nickel-plated steel tongues stick out from the wall, Drake scorns the very effort to get comfortable with his work.
Photo above: James Drake: Beto Juarez Gets High, 2006, mixed mediums on paper, 24 by 15 inches; in “Infinite Patience” at Haunch of Venison.