Huffington Post, 02/29/2012
Ward Jackson was a dependable presence on the New York scene, friend to nearly everyone, but few knew his work as a painter. His quiet, almost studious approach to abstract and representational painting alike endeared him more to fellow painters than to noisier scenemakers - a shame, as it relegated the substantial, even moving work of this dedicated painter to group shows and small, artist-run galleries. This look at several points along Jackson's half-century career identifies him primarily as a hard-edge painter - not a minimalist, but a post-constructivist, sensitive equally to color (some of his geometries are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, without ever being the least bit decorative) and to composition. Earlier paintings come out of expressionism and surrealism, but avoid the gestural, depending instead on rhythmic, sinuous line (and, again, a sensitivity for color). A late series of landscapes from his native Virginia relates Jackson to New York's figurative "underground" - and, ultimately and not surprisingly, to Cézanne. Of an earlier generation than Jackson, Beatrice Mandelman and Louis Ribak display the same values in their painting, relying on the dynamics of line, color, and composition to describe personal universes in intimate ways. Having left New York for New Mexico in the mid-1940s, Mandelman and Ribak kept abreast of what their old friends were doing, but their distance allowed them to do it differently. Indeed, they were central to Taos' own brand of late modernism, and thus to keeping the high desert a hotbed of painterly experiment. On view here were some of Mandelman's last, lusciously colored and expansively composed paintings, and various of Ribak's more restrained, if still painterly (and landscape-referent), abstractions.