Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Mitchell Algus Gallery Press Release

"The Filipino Roots of Minimalism:
Leo Valledor and Mario Yrissary"
September 7 - October 7, 2006

Reception: Thursday September 7 from 6 to 8
Mitchell Algus Gallery
511 West 25 Street #206
NY 10001

Press release
The Mitchell Algus Gallery presents an exhibition of paintings from 1964 – 1967 by Leo Valledor and Mario Yrisarry. A reception will be held on the day of the opening from 6 to 8 pm.

Minimalism is foremost an object maker's game; there are few important Minimalist painters. Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris are all ostensibly sculptors. Of painters associated with Minimalism, Stella is of course forebear and beacon. Other painters whose work is considered Minimalist – Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Ryman, Agnes Martin, Kenneth Noland – are Minimalists in hindsight only. With a myriad of surgical barbs Judd, the great critical arbiter, burst the bubbles of most painters who pretended to the mute veracity of the specific object.

Working in New York in the 1960s Leo Valledor and Mario Yrisarry produced some of the best – and now least known – early and high Minimalist paintings. Both showed at the pioneering Park Place cooperative alongside Sol Le Witt, Robert Smithson, Mark Di Suvero, Robert Grosvenor and Edwin Ruda. Both exhibited commercially with Graham Gallery, then run by Joan Washburn. And both were admired by Judd. (Yrisarry was his lower Park Avenue next-door neighbor.)

Leo Valledor was born to Filipino parents in San Francisco in 1936. Mario Yrisarry was born in Manila in 1933 and moved to New York City at the end of WWII. As was typical of their generation, apprenticeships in gestural abstraction were quickly transgressed. Valledor began to make eccentrically shaped canvases that pushed color/geometry interactions to extremes. In the words of Robert Smithson: "The synthetic math [of this new art] is reflected in...Duchamp's "measured" pieces of fallen threads, 'Three Standard Stoppages,' Judd's sequential structured surfaces, Valledor's 'fourth dimensional' color vectors....These artists face the possibility of other dimensions, with a new kind of sight." (Entropy and the New Monuments, 1966). Interestingly, here Smithson emphasizes the visionary, narrative subtext of a reductive art that would later, at Judd's behest, become parochially non-narrative. Still, reviewing a 1965 show of Park Place artists, Judd found "Leo Valledor's horizontal [Being] composed of long fast V's...."

The slyly structured sprayed paintings that Mario Yrisarry made in the mid-1960s are among the most originally radical of the time. Their deceptive material and compositional simplicity is still unsettling. Reviewing Yrisarry's first one-man show in 1964 Judd noted with typical understatement that "'s one of the better ones. Yrissary clearly has a purpose, but within this there is a fair amount of important variation." In Yrisarry's painting he found "something new," neither illusionistic, nor coherently sequential (Arts Magazine, 1964). Odd color and allusive, yet concrete, composition is shared by both Valledor and Yrisarry and sets them apart from the retrograde academicism of much 60s geometric art, the more organic tendencies of contemporaneous color field painting, and the rote schematicism the conventionally Minimal.

Why then are Valledor's and Yrisarry's paintings now so little known? Valledor left New York in 1968 and returned to San Francisco. Yrisarry stopped painting altogether in the early 1970s and built a career in the graphic arts. Though Valledor continued to work and teach in San Francisco, he stopped exhibiting in New York and died in 1989. Mario Yrisarry lives in New York City.