Matt Connors’ paintings evoke subtly flavored panna cotta, crisp spring days like the ones we’re having now and spare, beautiful flower arrangements—things that are fleeting and hard-won but seemingly effortless. This is his fourth show at Canada, following a strong survey at PS1 last year. His art just keeps getting better.
Two consecutive tall walls greet you in the gallery’s otherwise empty front room, the first of them yellow, the second blue. “Wake up,” they good-naturedly ask in primary colors. “Remember what color can do?” The paintings in the back gallery, as usual with Mr. Connors, are unabashedly elegant, most of them made with just a few washes, brushes, drips or spills of the same few colors. The marks are controlled but never fussy. Sometimes it looks like he has pressed parts of one canvas onto another, leaving faint imprints. The paintings seem directly connected to one another and also to the larger history of abstraction. Painters like Bernard Piffaretti, Kimber Smith and even Barnett Newman come to mind.
And yet, Mr. Connors’ work is far from derivative. This has to do in part with the soft and guileless caress with which he puts paint down on canvas. His touch is at once utterly simple and totally original. The same goes for his compositions, which suggest an artist who has taken apart his medium’s history and is building it afresh, from the ground up. But as with any truly thrilling art, there is a point at which critical reason is no match for aesthetic splendor. You just have to see these paintings.
At the moment, bro art—or neo-mannerism, flip art, zombie formalism or whatever you want to call it—seems to reign supreme in a certain self-satisfied segment of the art market. It’s all about parroting dead styles. Mr. Connors’ insouciant and charming exhibition should make those in that cloistered kingdom nervous.
(Through June 1, 2014)