Press: The Washington Times, June 12, 1986

Exciting, Abstract Images

by Michael Welzenbach, The Washington Times, June 12, 1986

Although realism and neo-expressionism have dominated mainstream fine art for the past decade, formal abstraction has continued to attract a large number of practitioners, On the periphery, away from the stylish New York milieu, abstraction has flourished. Some of today’s most sought-after artists are abstract painters such as the West Coast’s Richard Diebenkorn and Washington color school alumnus Kenneth Noland.

Washington has a strong modernist tradition of abstraction, rooted in the work of Morris Louis, Gene Davis and Howard Mehring, and continued by their former colleagues, among these Jacob Kainen and Leon Berkowitz. And there is a whole school of younger painters who continue to wrest new, exciting images from the abstract mode. One of the best of these is Nan Montgomery.

Miss Montgomery’s newest exhibit at the Osuna Gallery (406 Seventh St., N.W.) is a tour de force. The best pieces in the show, such as Scalene and Red Morning, are elegant paradigms of formal abstraction which trace a lineage back to the work of Piet Mondrian.

Though clearly most at home with a limited palette, Miss Montgomery has made some bold experiments, playing a sort of balancing act with scattered squares of brilliant primary colors. . .

Scalene and a smaller study, dealing with essentially the same formal problems of big intersecting planes of flat color, are both superb. In both of these works, the artist has attempted a sort of hat trick; a resolution of three distinct formal elements in a non-objective format: flat color areas, tonal harmony and perspective. And she has achieved a kind of sublime parity with the juxtaposition of tones and linear constructs.

Both works withstand long critical examination, and remain highly satisfying to look at. In fact, it’s well worth parking yourself in the middle of the floor in front of Scalene for half an hour or so, just to give your eyes – and mind – an exercise in harmony.

This excellent show remains on view through July 12.

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Meridian, 1985. Oil on canvas. 38 x 48 inches. Collection of Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC.

Meridian, 1985. Oil on canvas. 38 x 48 inches. Collection of Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC.

Scalene, 1986. Oil on canvas. 72 x 96 inches.

Scalene, 1986. Oil on canvas. 72 x 96 inches.

Red Morning, 1986. Oil on canvas. 72 x 96 inches.

Red Morning, 1986. Oil on canvas. 72 x 96 inches.