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Max Lakin: "What to See in N.Y.C. Galleries in November"

Asturias 2, 2022
oil on canvas
21 panels, overall: 11 ft 3 in. x 15 ft (342.9 x 457.2 cm)

Since the mid-60s, David Novros has been dedicated to art’s relation to place, creating site-specific murals, paintings and frescoes that speak in a Minimalism-accented geometric abstraction. (His first, commissioned by the conceptually simpatico Donald Judd in 1968 for a wall of his Spring Street studio, still exists there; neither of them loved the Minimalist label.) In their continuation of those concerns, the new work here is a bridge to an earlier version of New York’s art world, one interested more with process than the marketplace.

Novros’s inquiries reach even further into history — Spain’s Alhambra and Fra Angelico’s San Marco; the cave paintings in the Dordogne. The four multipartite paintings here, each composed of 11-20 monochromatic, interlocking canvases, are titled “Asturias,” another cave art-rich region, though only “Asturias 1” (2022) evokes a Paleolithic palette of leathery sepia and clay. The rest are brighter, but share a chalky application — blotches of eggplant and dusty ocher appearing as if they’ve been absorbed into the canvas rather than brushed, like pigment ground into plaster.

Novros works within the guardrails of rectangular painting while also fracturing its limits. His slender panels can read as cuneiform or runic marks, but also interdependent systems: The bright passages and white voids they omit create an optical short-circuit as you move, transferring a residual perception of one group on another, like so many Albers squares exploded across the wall. Each work occupies its own tract of wall, giving them the flavor of an altarpiece, as if they’ve always been there, recently unearthed.

– Max Lakin