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James and Ann Walsh

Post #1238 • September 26, 2008, 11:06 AM • 29 Comments

Oneonta, NY - The Walshes have been making their art in New York since the early '80s, long enough to witness the city and its art world reinvent itself several times over. That they remain committed to their individual takes on modernist practice, in the face of this churning of fortune, speaks of their seriousness and intensity. Ann pulls the horizontals of Noland into three dimensions, working with vinyl and lucite to produce mechanically crisp forms that put the responsibility for warmth and nuance exclusively on the colors. She then handles those colors with great sensitivity, and the best of her works deliver the delight afforded by a good Albers. James works with the widest array of handling possible to medium of acrylic, from stain to pile, within the same painting. It looks like it could not possibly work, and it does anyway. James acquired the most fruitful component of Olitski's legacy - the ability to put together a successful painting out of an arrangement which at first take appears too weird to function. He makes colors swoop, show off, and celebrate themselves like kites in a windy sky. Both Walshes are on display at Hartwick College in an exhibition that confirms both of them as major talents.

James Walsh: The Ministry of Thunder, 2006, acrylic on canvas, 28 x 22 inches

James Walsh: Sweet Harry, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 17 inches

James Walsh: Gradient, 2005, acrylic on canvas, 29 x 25 inches

Ann Walsh: Tie, 2005, vinyl, wood, 15 x 14 x 13 inches

Ann Walsh: Stir, 2006, vinyl, plexiglas, 8 x 8 x 8 inches

Ann Walsh: Rattle, 2004, acrylic, urethane on wood, 25 x 25 x 6 inches




September 26, 2008, 12:10 PM

Ann's work reminds a lot of another Ann(e), but from several decades ago:

Having seen the work in person, Franklin, how would you compare the two?



September 26, 2008, 1:11 PM

I wish I could. I've never seen a Truitt in person. I'll say this, though - Ann made me go back and have another look at Judd, who didn't seem so inert upon reconsideration. The Walker has one of his squares up right now, mounted end-wise into the wall at eye level, with a translucent blue glass top and bottom, and steel around the sides. Looking down into it was vertiginous.



September 26, 2008, 1:38 PM

I saw several pieces of Ann Walsh's in her studio about a year ago and liked them a lot. I worked for John McCracken years ago and I've seen examples of Anne Truitt's work. There are differences between the three. At the same time the similarities may become problematic, this is a fairly tight genera of polychrome sculpture.

I think Ann Walsh is being too conservative with her ideas and needs to open up her forms.

I mentioned Keith Tysons recent exhibition "Fractal Dice" at Pace. I posted some pictures on FutureModern (looks like Franklin's blocked out the a tag so go to and scroll down). He has taken the polychromed geometric sculpture format and opened it wide up. It's surprising to no one thought of this before.



September 26, 2008, 1:38 PM

Two very talented and productive artists.

There is still excellent art being made, whether recognized or not.



September 26, 2008, 1:45 PM

The Hirshhorn is mounting an Anne Truitt retro in late 2009 ( If you end up on the east coast around that time, I think it would make for a great trip to D.C. Since she lived in this area I've had the pleasure of seeing a lot of her work.

As for Judd, I had a similar experience. For me it took just walking through Dia: Beacon and I began to see more in Judd. Now he's one of my favorite minimalists.



September 26, 2008, 1:50 PM

George, deep links at addresses became an attack vector for spam, so they got blacklisted. Links to front pages should still work. Sorry about that.

Noted, JT - I'll see you there.



September 26, 2008, 2:15 PM

OK, Franklin, thanks for the explaination, I do use blogger as an image host so I can understand the issues involved.

So go to my blog and scroll down the page for the pics to Keith Tysons new pieces. They aren't great photographs but the're better than nothing.

The biggest surprise last weekend were the paintings by Joanna Pousette-Dart. Within her working perameters, these were about as good as it gets.



September 26, 2008, 2:38 PM

i have seen most of these walsh's before.

for jim from the above i like "ministry..." the best and it is one of the better pieces i have seen from him. "sweet harry" is average and gradient is not to my tatse.

the degree of hit and miss is pretty wide for jim, ann is a bit more consistent.

all 3 pieces above by ann look quite good.



September 26, 2008, 2:42 PM

Both Walshes will also be on display at Common Sense in the 16th annual ECAS exhibition, so anyone in Edmonton who wishes to confirm both of them as major talents for themself, head down to our gallery on opening night, Friday October 3, 7:00 'til ???... the show's up until Oct. 30.



September 26, 2008, 3:07 PM

Hey George, check out Eli Bornstein (Canadian, b. 1922)...he was mining the same territory as Tyson's dice-worx in the fifties, sans algorithm and assistants, I presume.



September 26, 2008, 3:11 PM

further and more careful reading confirms that Bornstein was in fact born in Wisconsin, but has been teaching in Saskatchewan for some time...



September 26, 2008, 3:13 PM


It's not the same. Bornstein is mining the same old territory the Constructivists dug up initially. This was followed by a spate of artists working in a similat vein as Bornstein, I can't remember all the names, but there was one in L.A. and most of the works seemed like they were trying really hard to be art.

Tyson's pieses are much closer to the original Russian sources and to a sixties abstract/minimalist sensibility. In spite of how they were made, they were cool to look at.



September 26, 2008, 3:24 PM

I'm not too crazy about Bornstein or Tyson's stuff for the most part, but I dig the minimal-constructivist angle. Something about that strident clarity I find very refreshing.

I'll make mine out of Lego and have only Dutch speaking 'small people' help me put them together, cuz I'm freaky like that. FTR, I don't give a sh*t who makes the stuff, it just has to be good.



September 26, 2008, 3:33 PM

I brought up Tyson's pieces because I think Ann Walsh is being too conservative with her approach. She's off to a nice start but the pieces occupy a fairly predictable territory and that works against them.



September 26, 2008, 7:32 PM

The directness of "Gradient" made me think of images I've seen of your own work, dude (and that was prior to seeing you'd commented here) - Walsh may have some keys for your painting, specifically in terms of form and structure. What do you think?



September 26, 2008, 8:44 PM

ahab, i think you should make some time and stop by the studio and we can talk about whatever you like.



September 27, 2008, 12:57 AM

Righto, ten-four, will do. Over.


Chris Rywalt

September 27, 2008, 2:14 AM

"Tie" makes me want some Neapolitan ice cream. Ah, Napoli, my ancestral homeland....



September 27, 2008, 3:54 PM

"Gradient" is how I feel after too much (my) Tie...



September 28, 2008, 10:35 AM

Wow really love this art! Great post thanks!



September 29, 2008, 2:58 PM

Boring around here... so FYI

House votes down bailout.
Free markets go to work.

It's a full fledged crash, at least 1000 points off the DJIA before it's done.

Kiss the art market goodbye for the next two years. Expect to see a major gallery go belly up. The shit just hit the fan.

FYU It's already started here in the US. You know all those juicy Hirst's that were auctioned off awhile back? NONE of the first days sale (the 'best' 56 lots) were sold to US collectors...

Jack may take some solace, almost all of them were sold to Russian collectors. Ah the newvoh richee!



September 29, 2008, 5:23 PM

George, if the Russians had no problem with an ex-KGB official as their neo-dictator, I can't imagine they'd have a problem with a relatively minor abomination like Hirst.

And I do hope the major gallery you refer to is Gagosian--we're due for some cheerful news.



September 29, 2008, 5:42 PM

The Russians buying the Hirst's is verifiable, although not directly stated by the auction house. Most importantly US sales totally dried up, they were nonexistent. This has to be of some concern to the high end of the market.

A gallery going under is my speculation but no names. Money is very tight, art is not going to be liquid enough to collateralize loans any more, and they will be called forcing sales into an increasingly illiquid market.

Speculation in the art market is dead, the current buyers at high prices are being fleeced and have little chance of a positive return.

Curiously a blog article I wrote a year ago explaining how an artwork like the Andy Warhol "Liz" which sold for $20.5 million would not likely have a positive return for twenty years was unpublished (de-linked by blogger) just before the Hirst sale. I didn't notice it until yesterday and republished it.

It's a whole new ball-game.



September 29, 2008, 5:59 PM

A poor internet connection and other life events prevented today's post. Tomorrow I review Like Breath On Glass at the Clark.



September 29, 2008, 6:56 PM

A pair of wee works by the Walshes just arrived at Common Sense today for the ECAS show opening this Friday. I'm looking forward to unwrapping them and getting a look...



September 29, 2008, 7:17 PM

The Ministry of Thunder...

awsome piece !!!




September 29, 2008, 7:35 PM

George, you sure do relish being the voice of doom.

Yeah. A big fan and a lot of shit. It will be interesting to see what grows back after the grim reaper has passed his scythe over the art business. I'm just taking a wild guess that the better stuff might do better than the garbage in the long run.



September 29, 2008, 8:23 PM


Some of my friends over in the investment community have commented on how bearish I have been recently. They have paid attention because I am generally optimistic most of the time.

What is occurring is not just another correction of overvalued prices in one market or another. It is a breakdown of the financial system of a severity not seen in the last 75 years.

How it will turn out I do not know, what I do know is that people are predictable and will become more conservative with their spending. Therefore the art market will suffer, like it did in 1975 or the 1990's.

As we know the art market has been overheated for awhile and these excesses will be corrected one way or the other.


Chris Rywalt

October 1, 2008, 5:05 PM

Whee! I'm high on schadenfreude! This is all so AWESOME!



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