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Milton Resnick: Dour?

by Craig Manister


Milton Resnick: U&Me

Roberta Smith is a wonderful and insightful art critic but it may be noted that there are two arguable points in her obituary of Milton Resnick published on March 19, 2004, in the New York Times. It is odd that in the first line of the obituary Ms. Smith characterizes his work as "dour." He may have been occasionally obstinate or unyielding, especially when challenged publicly, but how many artists have not been, especially those of the first generation of American artists who struggled to have their contributions valued as much as European art? Considering the entire oeuvre, as one expects an artist’s obituary to do, can Resnick’s paintings be characterized as generally morose, sour, forbidding or dark? Perhaps Ms Smith is not familiar with such of his paintings as "New Bride" "U & Me" or the tender, warm "Untitled", as well as many others that evidence deep human compassion and joy.

Distinguished critics including Tom Hess, James Schuyler, Lawrence Campbell, Donald Judd, Brian O’Doherty, Sam Hunter, Irving Sandler, Carter Ratcliff, John Russell, Donald Kuspit, Stephen Westfall,and others, have written about him without suggesting that his range excluded the delicate, the warm or the voluptuous. On the contrary, his paintings are filled with light, beauty and love.

Secondly, to characterize him as angst-ridden, as she does, is not entirely accurate and borders on the unfair. Resnick was sometimes emotional but always grounded. He believed that it was important to be open to previously unthought of possibilities in the act of painting and to that extent angst or the discomfort of not knowing while painting was considered a virtue. He was, however, no more or less an existentialist than the other leading lights of post_war American painting. An obituary is no place for editorializing. Resnick's work should be evaluated in the discourse of a proper museum retrospective. That this never happened in his lifetime is an outrage.

Painter Craig Manister is a former student of Milton Resnick's at the New York Studio School and an Associate Professor of Art at the College of Staten Island.


  Copyright © 2004 Craig Manister




May 1, 2004