Dona Nelson's liberation of painting
Incrementally and without nearly the attention she deserves, Dona Nelson has become one of the best artists working today, partly by spending over two decades wrestling with the idea of a painting as a free-standing object with two distinct sides and, in many ways, a mind of its own.
Just as the Minimalists plunked sculpture into the viewer’s space, minus pedestal, Ms. Nelson has liberated painting from the wall. She may not be the first to do so — Rauschenberg, Ryman and Polke are precedents — but she does it with her own specific flamboyant rigor, a noun that is both evoked and possibly ridiculed in “Phigor,” the show’s title. The dropcloth look so endemic in contemporary auction art may be buried in these works, but Ms. Nelson’s results are the opposite of zombie formalism — quite alive, distinct and infused with an adamant, difficult beauty.