Handsome ambivalence pervades Luxembourg and Dayan’s two part exhibition, ‘Grisaille’, on view in New York and London. Taking chromatic limitation as a curatorial starting point, ‘Grisaille’, organized by Alison Gingeras, limits itself to monochromatic hues. Not restricted to simply grey, the paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs blooms across the spectrum from silver to taupe. Dating back to Christopher Murer’s ‘A Dancing Couple’ from 1585-1587 and stopping with 2011 work from Jeni Spota, John Currin, Rudolf Stingel, Bjarne Melgaard and Mark Flood ‘Grisaille’ also spends several years with the 1960’s Minimalist and Conceptualist limited tendencies.
Grisaille is the deliberate limitation of a painting to black and white. Originally employed either as an under-painting for future glazing (as can be seen in Jean Dominique Ingres’ unfinished ‘Odalisque in Grisaille’ ca. 1824-34 in the Metropolitan Museum) or as an aid for engravers, the technique here serves a larger conceptual purpose. Aside from strictly technical reasons, artists have often turned to reduced chromatic choices for multiple reasons. Offering a stark dignity, black and white affords artists an almost immediate seriousness that paisley would fail to deliver. Reduced means also serve a spiritual purpose. Across the spectrum from the stained glass and the vaulted chapel stands the sparse stone cell and simple monk’s habit.
Spanning five floors and arrayed on brightly colored green, pink and brown walls, the work, despite limited color, instigates across a wider emotional spectrum. On one poll is the introspective tendency with work by Rudolf Stingel, Brice Marden and Agnes Martin and a late Andy Warhol. Quicksilver lightness brightens the proceedings with a portrait bust by Jeff Koons and a delightful gossamer Alex Katz from 1959. ‘Grisaille’, however, purposely evades the grey seriousness that Giacometti’s friend Samuel Beckett perfected in his short prose poem ‘Lessness’
Scattered ruins same grey as the sand ash grey true refuge. Four square all light sheer white blank planes all gone from mind. Never was but grey air timeless no sound figment the passing light. No sound no stir ash grey sky mirrored earth mirrored sky. Never but this changelessness dream the passing hour.
‘Grisaille’ steps out ambivalently. More light than deft, ‘Grisaille’ is ambivalent but perhaps does not offer ambivalence. Still, a mixture of old and new work handsomely displayed on the Upper East Side should leave no one complaining. Next time, if greyish ambiguity is in the offing, than more wrinkles, more failure. Perhaps more Hamlet and less Polonius.
John Currin 'L'Intimite'
Oil on Canvas
22 x 23 inches
Joseph Dufour et Cie
'Psyche Abandoned; Psyche Wafted by Zephyrs' 1815
Oil on Canvas
16 x 13 inches
Metallic powder in polymer emulsion 59 7/8 x 34 5/8 x 1 1/4 inches
Two 1/2 inch felts
Each 144 x 72 inches
overall approximately 95 x 140 inches
30 x 18 x 11 inches
Edition of 3