Piri Halasz: Reinvention: Francine Tint’s Abstractions Evolve at Walter Wickiser Gallery
I do like an artist who evolves. Some artists who evolve don’t improve upon their earlier work, but that’s the risk they have to take—and I salute those who take it. In that category, at Walter Wickiser Gallery in Chelsea we have “Francine Tint: Echo and Shadow,” up through February 25. Technically, this is only half of a two-person show, but Ms. Tint’s 14 paintings—ranging in size from small to large, and all pure abstractions—occupy the large central space in this gallery and the larger of its two side spaces. She deserves the real estate she’s given here on the grounds of art-world longevity alone, although there are aesthetic reasons to be very enthusiastic about almost everything in this show. But if ever there was an artist who has paid her dues, that is Francine Tint.
A native of Brooklyn, she has studied at not one but three art schools—the Brooklyn Museum School, Pratt Institute, and the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture in Manhattan. Since the turn of the century alone, she has had 10 solo exhibitions, four of them in New York, and participated in 20 group exhibitions, twelve in New York. During that same period, her work has been seen in art fairs from Southampton to San Francisco. Nor is she a stranger to her fellow artists, getting around to more openings than you can keep track of: her smiling face adorns any number of festive photos on Facebook.
I have thought highly of the pioneer Abstractionist’s work for years, but was accustomed to thinking of it in terms of long, languorous sweeps of gel-raised and luscious but closely-valued colors—kind of an august Jules Olitskian Götterdämmerung. But there is little if anything like that here.
In brief, Ms. Tint, well into her career, has been experimenting. She has been working long and hard to differentiate her work from its former context and time frame, doing her best to drag her own unique brand of Color Field painting, more than three decades after she first premiered it, kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
But this new body of work is a change. To begin with, it’s not as leisured, swooping and voluptuous as of old. Brushwork is now much more agitated, flustered, vehement, and even aggressive, with short, sharp, staccato bursts of color. One way or another, the impression conveyed is of a lot of action—more action, in fact, than some of the canvases of those earlier Abstract Expressionists officially known as “action painters.”
There’s lots less gel (though with a few grace notes of it), lots more scrubbing and scraping of the paint, lots more curved or straight sweeps of it, brusquely abbreviated. More pictures have matte surfaces; almost none have glossy ones. Colors are brighter, with much more vigorous color contrasts, and Ms. Tint has taken to emulating Manet, Goya and Velázquez in using black as a color more often. But in one case, she works with a mostly white field, as did Helen Frankenthaler in the ’60s—but, if only because Ms. Tint is stroking the paint onto her canvas instead of staining it in, the two artists’ pictures don’t further resemble each other.
In the ’70s, Frankenthaler also drew a lot of lines upon her canvases. I never felt they worked very well for her, but now Ms. Tint is using a lot of lines (usually black) and they mostly come off much better. One reason may be because her lines are more emphatic, more confident. For whatever reason, they operate as independent entities, sitting on the surface of the field of paint. In the process, they establish a figure-ground relationship (whatever happened to Greenbergian “flatness”?). Furthermore, when the field underneath such lines contains a lot of blue and/or green, the painting takes on the appearance of an underwater panorama, its blues and greens sinking tumultuously into a still totally abstract space suggestive of water. Lovely.
There are so many good paintings in this show that I can’t possibly comment on them all. But don’t miss Lost Horizon (2013); Conjurer (2011); Sea & Sardinia (2015); Night of the Iguana (2015); Black Opal (2012); Come Away with Me (2013); and Fishnet (2014).
Art in America
Francine Tint at Tria
Asked for advice by young artists, in the days before unfledged MFA candidates were guaranteed more attention than seasoned practitioners, Clement Greenberg often urged them to “live a long time.” The history of van Gogh’s sales, the critic would explain, suggested that he would have died a rich man, if he hadn’t killed himself at 37. But Greenberg’s reply also arose from his belief that making art required a long-term commitment to the exploration of its possibilities.
Witness Francine Tint, who is no novice. For decades, she has been making abstract paintings based on the unpremeditated manipulation of materials. Her strengths have always been her idosyncratic sense of color, her ability to draw energetically at large scale, and her refusal to make ingratiating pictures. In her recent work, her audacity is undiminished than ever, and her drawing — sometimes manifest as line, sometimes assigned to the edges of color incidents –even more unpredictable.
The drama in the nearly 9-foot-wide Irish Smoke (2007)resides largely in the oddness of Tint’s palette, a near-rococo combination of rose, moss green, silver gray, golden yellow and murk that somehow invokes both urban cacophony and landscape. In Object of Desire (2008; 48 by 69 inches), a slapdash expanse of cinnabar red punctuated with swipes of strange greens and blues, the astringent color is still the driving emotional force, but it has to compete with emphatic surface inflections and over-scale loopy drawing. Tint has remained true to her original convictions about what a painting can be, yet her vigorous, street-smart recent works seem utterly of the moment.
When she first began exhibiting 25 years ago, her work announced her solidarity with color-based abstractionists even through Tint’s rough-hewn canvases often seemed quirkier and brasher than theirs. Today, her still notably quirky and brash pictures demand to be read differently. With their acerbic hues and fierce gestures, they can be seen as both affirmations of her belief in the power of intuitive, non-figurative painting and as a non-ironic commentary on, say, Gerhard Richter’s simulacra of color-based, gestural abstraction. Tint’s aims haven’t changed, but the context for her work has, allowing — or forcing — us to consider it in new says.
Art in America
” Francine Tint approaches painting as an act both visual and cerebral, with a signature brushstroke that is at once explosively enigmatic and pensive…
Tint has said,‘When I paint, my ego is not there in the sense of self. I go into a primordial dimension‘ That dimension seems to coincide with nature, which is not rendered in any familiar way, but evoked as a dynamic force in swift, urgent gestures and other, more languishingly paced brushstrokes.
For all of it’s material presence, however, Tint’s art is ultimately about ecstasy: a sensuous transport in some paintings, such as Mother of Pearl, while in others, likePurple Fog, a mood of transcendence.”
Art in America
“The Artist , who’s works were championed by Clement Greenberg and who has shown widely with artists such as Olitsky and Poons…The emphasis in this luminous work is on the sensual properties of color and surface.”
New York Review of Art
Phyllis Herfield Phd
“…paintings convey a sense of place. Although they flirt with the concept of chaos, they are well ordered. There is emotional drama here, but it is contained and made to conform to the conscripts of formality. Tint is certainly one of the strongest and most communicative of the color field painters. Her work deserves a wide audience and a permanent place among the masters of the genre.”
“Tint’s list of collectors, both public and private, resembles a small phone directory, but no H Connoisseur would be complete without a smattering of name dropping, so here we go: The Stanford University Museum of Art, The University of Pennsylvania, Nicole Miller, and Guy Laroche.” Gallery RVS Fine Arts
“…The simplicity belies their strength, that belongs entirely to the “period” – to the substance of paint itself. It’s in the layering of paint rather than in the graphic character of her art that Tint’s true power as a painter lies.”