The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2022

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APRIL 2022 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: New York

96. A second-floor gallery on Mercer and Prince Street, a studio in a former synagogue on Hester Street

At the age of 31, an artist walks into a SoHo gallery containing only a single work—a 35-foot-long abstract painting by an older painter—and begins to feel almost physically sick. He has been deeply affected by the political movements of the previous decade (feminism, civil rights, war protests) and realizes that he doesn’t want to go on making big paintings. He can’t stand the thought of one of his paintings ending up in a bank lobby or even in a museum. To prevent that ever happening, he decides that from now on he will only make paintings suited to the rooms of his friends. He reduces his scale to 16 by 20 inches. In the short term, because so many people confuse size with importance, this decision is terrible for his career, but he perseveres. Over time he comes to be admired for his small, wildly inventive abstractions by nearly every other artist in New York, and even by a few discerning collectors, as the epitome of a “painter’s painter.” Although toward the end of his life a few museums open their eyes and begin to collect his work, none of his paintings are ever hung in bank lobbies.

(Thomas Nozkowski)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2022

All Issues