In 'Compendium,' Borghi Goes Eclectic

In Bridgehampton
An installation view of “Compendium,” which will be on view at Mark Borghi through Sept. 3. Jennifer Landes

Toward the end of the summer there is an urge to recapture its highlights and rethink routines to ensure everything still undone can be achieved or experienced.

“Compendium” at Mark Borghi Fine Art is a show that seeks to capture what is included and missing from the usual 20th-century art survey shows. On one level it appears like an art fair booth, with seemingly disparate elements. Yet, it also provides cohesion and a fresh take on artists we think we know so well.

Clarifying the unifying concept of these particular works was important enough to the gallery that its press release provided two glossary style definitions of compendium and art history. They define compendium as “a brief summary of a larger work or of a field of knowledge.” Art history is “the study of objects of art in their historical development and stylistic contexts, that is genre, design, format, and style.” 

Fair enough, but working here as well is a hint of a rewriting of history to embrace the other or the excluded. This works on two levels, for the artists, some of which are not household names, as well as for the works on view, which tend to be outside those expected from their maker.

Presenting a more inclusive narrative results in the selection of a small but satisfying untitled enamel paint on paper work by Al Loving Jr., an African-American Abstract Expressionist who died in 2005. The work could be a set of whorls, but it also has a vague suggestion of figuration.

Women who have not had the attention they deserve are also part of the show. Mercedes Matter, who died in 2001, is more known here, where she was active, but is not as recognizable to much of the New York City art world in which she was also a participant. A still life from 1936 is familiar to those who know her career, but probably foreign to others. Hedda Sterne, while being featured more and more in major museum and gallery exhibitions, is still a relative unknown. For those who know her only from her earlier work, the 1988 painting on view is a revelation of light and space.

A more recent abstractionist, Pat Lipsky is represented by a large and luminous canvas titled “Glowing.” Anne Truitt, known for her sculpture, has an acrylic painting on view in black on unprimed canvas.

Gene Davis, whose color field paintings are well known in Washington, D.C. (where he was active until his death in 1985), but less so in New York, has a large and striking work on view. His “Blue/Grey” has echoes of the Civil War and its canvas is divided in two with each sector in the color of the title.  

Lee Krasner, while quite well-known, won’t be recognized by her figurative drawing from 1937. David Smith, a tower of Abstract Expressionist sculpture, has a 1959 sketch in bronze metallic spray paint on paper, not too similar to any of his corresponding sculpture from that time. Larry Rivers’s “Iron Maiden,” a slightly larger than life sculpture in painted metal, looks unlike anything easily recalled from the artist’s oeuvre.

There are exceptions, such as John Chamberlain’s show-within-a-show of crumpled and painted aluminum and steel, but even here the gallery has added some two-dimensional works on Masonite and a mini version of one of his lesser-known foam works.

Other examples of familiar works by familiar artists include works by Helen Frankenthaler, Ellsworth Kelley, R.B. Kitaj, Elaine de Kooning and Willem de Kooning, Hans Hoffmann, Sam Francis, Franz Kline, Kenneth Noland, Alex Katz, and Keith Haring, although his “Red-Yellow-Blue #20” isn’t immediately identifiable.

There are several Italian artists on view as well, making a case for a cultural exchange that can or should be happening more between European and American artists working in similar periods. Alberto Biasi, Tano Festa, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Arnoldo Pomodoro are unique in their offerings, be it sculpture or two-dimensional works, yet they fit in as well as anything else. 

Prepare to be surprised and intrigued by this eclectic mix, which is on view through Sept. 3