In the Guardian today, Olivia Laing reviews New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight, the amazing new book by Jenni Quilter (which I’ve posted about before). Laing provides a helpful introduction to the New York School, stressing its collaborative milieu and the dialogue between painting and poetry at its heart. She writes: “it’s canny of Jenni Quilter to make collaboration the focus of her magnificently lavish, colourful and beautifully designed compendium, which captures the essential spirit of the New York School: its valuing of what people make together as well as what they produce alone.”
Laing talks at some length about Frank O’Hara, who “is undoubtedly the linchpin here, his distinctive grin, hooked nose and widow’s peak surfacing repeatedly from photographs, sculptures and paintings.”
And Laing has some interesting reflections on a number of the artworks the book contains, such as Fairfield Porter’s double portrait of John Ashbery and James Schuyler:
“Even the weightier works maintain an atmosphere of zero gravity. One of the masterpieces is Porter’s extraordinary 1957-58 portrait of the poets Ashbery and Schuyler, perched on a floral sofa against an indeterminate creamy background. Porter, that strange, abrupt, observant man, had a knack for keeping the objects in his paintings separate. Schuyler and Ashbery maintain a courteous, unsettled distance from one another. Though they’re both unequivocally present in the light-filled room, they aren’t in anything like the sweaty contact of normality. Schuyler appears to be floating an inch or two above the cushions, his legs sticking into the air like those of a blow-up doll, a world away from the man whose tense and unhappy form is superimposed over his left foot.
This radical disjunction between things, this art of objects and the spaces between them, is key to the New York School aesthetic. It’s there in [Jasper] John’s assemblages and [Larry] Rivers’s insistently inchoate paintings, with their marshy palettes. Disjunction is at the heart of O’Hara and Ashbery’s surreal wordplay, their shearing away of the humble zips and buttons of language. It’s central, likewise, to [Alex] Katz’s hyper-real, dissociated portraits, his flat slabs of pastel colour brushed with light, and to [Joe] Brainard’s joyful collages and cutups.”
You can read the rest of Laing’s review here. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out Quilter’s New York School Painters & Poets yet, I cannot recommend this treasure trove of a book highly enough.