The artist Larry Poons has been recognized over the years by major critics as a multi-disciplinary rebel in the New York art world. His status as a painter began to emerge when Poons began painting hard-edge dots on fields of color in the early 1960s. This culminated in a series of works pre-dating his deeply gestural, color-based collisions, from which he would eventually instigate throwing and pouring paint in a highly personal manner. This would become apparent in the early 70s and continue throughout the 80s and beyond.
During his periods of earlier work as a painter, there appeared an intervention involving Poons’ interest in classical music, wherein the artist (if understood correctly) had acquired a distinct desire to become a conductor. Beethoven and Mozart had become relative obsessions for which he was determined not to let go; and, for all intents and purposes, he never has.
Even so, it was painting that finally rose to the top of the charts as being the artist’s most significant inheritance. It was here the path to rebellion revealed itself, and thus identified Poons as the extraordinary artist he has become – a status that has continued to grow and spread over many years.
Concurrent with this, Poons acquired an in-depth involvement in racing high-speed motorcycles, which he continues to do on a regular basis, and for which he has won distinguished medals and awards. Together, this aspiration, along with his ongoing painting and music, constitute a significant triumvirate -- each of which Poons continues to take seriously, despite their unique divergence.
The current exhibition at Yares, titled The Outerlands, includes work interspliced from various styles that Poons has worked since 1981. What is original about this exhibition is the welcomed absence of a relentless chronology whereby Poons’ paintings follow one another assiduously from mid-century to the present, thus suggesting a career designed as a recitation that has not only been maintained, but overly endorsed in perfect systematic order.
The refreshing aspect of the current Yares show is the avoidance of such an orderly date-driven documentation. On the contrary, this exhibition makes possible a more creative experience that focuses on unexpected allusions and originalities. In doing so, the paintings retain an open resonance as to how we might see Poons removed from a predictable narrative. Instead we have an opportunity to view his work from a more personal qualitative position that gives credit to his own decisions as a painter.
Peritheria (1993) and Jimmy Martin (2004) are two paintings included in the exhibition that resonate equally with one another. For example, both paintings suggest how color in these paintings emits light, which is clearly revealed. The painterly process on the surface of each painting is not exactly the same as any of Poons’ paintings tend to make clear. Peritheria reveals an overall rose effect, whereas the effect of green in Jimmy Martin gives this painting a slightly darker hue. In each painting the overall process of how color works is to retain and emit internal light that doubles as a form of luminosity.
The largest and most celebrated painting in the exhibition carries the same title as the exhibition itself, namely The Outerlands. The title has several meanings. From a geographical perspective, it refers to an area in San Francisco where the City’s once barren dunes end at the Pacific Ocean, while in New England, it refers to the terminal moraine archipelagic region that runs along the coast line. Either of these may relate to Larry Poons’ painting, but then there are other sources as well.
The Outerlands (2022), is acrylic on canvas and measures 69 x 485 inches. The approximate length of the painting is forty feet. The length given to this painting makes it difficult to see all in one glance. To get a full-view of The Outerlands requires the viewer to walk the length of the painting. Again, the red/green paint (on the far left) and the yellow/green (on the far right), contribute to the work’s presence, but given the painting’s length it is virtually impossible to view the two ends in optical contact. The more impressive aspect of Poons’ painting is its painterly density in which the mixing of the colors play a formative role. As for the artist’s use of color, the painting is a kind of masterpiece.
Peering at the canvas closely, It is possible to read this density for what it is. The small calligraphic markings throughout the painting are impressive as visual wanderings regaining lightness and weight clearly in contrast to one another. They off-set the rigor given to the overlays of color. Otherwise, the optical movement this painting retains is given to the miraculous in its early stages of levitation.
This is a show that allows viewers a certain degree of air-space to get inside the artist’s paintings and to feel whatever comes through in accordance with however they are painted.