The title Entropvisions is in homage to my mother, the poet and art critic, Harriet Zinnes. In 1990 New Directions published a collection of her poems titled Entropisms, a word she made-up combining entropy - the tendency toward disorder - and tropism - the growth towards or away from a stimulus. Similarly, my short reviews combine entropy and tropism by suggesting growth towards a vision of art from the chaos of the art world. Through the back door, my title also pays homage to my physicist father, Irving Zinnes, whose long discussions with my mom got her thinking about entropy and tropism in the first place.
Shirley Jaffe at Tibor de Nagy & Becky Yazdan at The Front
Is it a trend? Is it a recognition the beginnings of Modernism were more complex and nuanced than history books have told us? Is it part of our cultural zeitgeist of opening up, of looking beyond the powerful and famous? Recently NYC has hosted a number of very fine exhibitions of artists who had been well-known in Europe in the 50s and 60s, but were not well represented this side of the Atlantic. I think of Roger-Edgar Gillet at Petzel Gallery, Lynn Drexler at Berry Campbell and Mnuchin Gallery, Anne Harvey and Raymond Mason at Steven Harvey Gallery. (The NYSS is hosting a solo Mason show, opening Jan. 10.) Adding to this list of important but relatively unknown mid-century artists is Shirley Jaffe, whose paintings from the 1950s-60s now hang at Tibor de Nagy. Walking into the gallery I was immediately struck by the emotional intensity breaking out of the energy, painterly rhythms, flow of color and light, and bravura of her brushstroke. Questions about fame vs. quality couldn’t leave my mind: Why are some of the AbEx artists more well-known than others? How does this history teach us about reputations of contemporary artists? From this show, Jaffe seems to be right up with many of her more famous colleagues. Born in New Jersey in 1923, she studied at The Cooper Union, and moved permanently to Paris in 1949, becoming part of the vibrant American expatriates exploring the new language of abstraction. Judging from images I found online, Jaffe’s oeuvre seems to span from tightly orchestrated paintings of flat surfaces reminiscent of Matisse cut-outs or Stuart Davis, to the more fluid, emotionally driven paintings now at Tibor. This show, up through January 21, gives a little taste of what could have been seen at Jaffe’s 2022 retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, and is well-worth visiting. Thank you, Andrew Arnot for helping to expose NYC to the art of Shirley Jaffe.
Also of interest in the LES is the Becky Yazdan show, up through Jan. 8, at The Front Gallery. Her large paintings suggest unconscious wanderings through memory, or imagination blended with memory, or simply the love of letting paint, color and brush move together. Quirky surprises of line meander within and on top of unusual shapes and textures of color suggesting something specific but yet completely unnameable. There is a lot to ponder in her explorations of an inner world made visible through paint.