Larry Poons

Larry Poons is and has been for all the years that I have known him (which are all the years he and I have been trying to make art in New York since 1958) so into painting that he often appears to be painting.
Sounds as though it’s just another story played out in the Big Apple art scene, but it’s not. It’s really a story of courage and talent, whose significance has so far been lost on those for whom it would do the most good—his fellow artists, and, of course, the critical and curatorial elite who supports them. Larry’s accomplishments, as well as his commitment to painting, have been dismissed by the art world at large as mere partisan Formalism. Unfortunately, it’s spread to the practicing art world and made painting the target on foil for all the “newer” art activities, which saw themselves as the successors of painting.
I believe that Larry Poons deserves a better fate and being understood as a defender painting, perhaps even the defender of painting. Much has been written about the drama and originality of his paint-throwing technique. He has been seen as one of the most gifted manipulators of pigment in our time. His problem, the reserved and, at times, patronizing public perception of this work, arises not so much for faults in Larry’s efforts, but from defects in the public’s ability to come to grips with what real painting is all about. The truth is that the public is not particularly into, or even sympathetic to, pictorial drama and originality. Even more damaging, even truer, is the fact that the practicing part of the art-world public doesn’t care about pigment, the ultimate material reality in painting.
Normally healthy—meaning anything less than a totally obsessive—romantic narcissism makes up a large part of the artistic/creative personality. It’s really a given and we have good reasons from the written and pictorial record of the past to believe it always has been this way… The artistic narcissism of our time wants to keep its image neat and close-cropped, the product of a completely encapsulated self.
Touch and its individualized and general aspects seem to be the gestures that best identify art for us. And it could be argued that this identifying touch is what satisfies us when we engage with Art, when we look at paintings. Certainly, Larry Poons' painting is driven by the right gesture, true artistic touch.
Modern painting was successful because it extended traditional painting. Similarly, abstract painting extends, and to the amazement of many, the expansive range of expression that’s available to realistic painting. In our time, no one has extended and expanded the range of pictorial expression more than Larry Poons. It’s enough certainly to make him a “Hero of Our Time.”
Frank Stella, 1999

 

Glass Coach Louisville, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 172 x 225.4 cm
The Compression Sisters, 1997, acrylic and inert materials on canvas, 227.3 x 351.8 cm
20-20 and Blue, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 174.6 x 273 cm