Robert Mangold: X, Plus and Frame Paintings

24 February - 8 May 2009

Parasol unit is delighted to present a new exhibition of works by the American artist Robert Mangold. The exhibition will concentrate on three dynamic groups of painting that Mangold executed between 1980 and 1986, entitled x, + and Frame Paintings series. These outstanding paintings continue to express Mangold’s central concerns in painting, namely the relationship between figure and surface. They play a pivotal role in Mangold’s oeuvre and form his first exhibition in a UK institution.

The x and + series, as their titles suggest, refer to mathematical operations. They are composed of several rectangular and square canvases of varying lengths and widths that are abutted and inscribed over with pencil respectively with a linear figure of an x or +. The proportions of these elements are derived from precisely defined mathematical relationships, such as the halving of the length or width of a specific area and depending on the manner they are joined, the outline of the whole can be defined as either regular or irregular. The pencil inscribed figure of x or + on the painted canvas eliminates categorically any illusory effect and keeps the painting to the surface. Mangold uses vivid and intense colour combinations to highlight the interplay of scale and perception.

The concept of intensifying a clearly accentuated pictorial form by creating multi-part structures and using different colours is taken one step further in Mangold’s Frame Paintings, in which usually four, but in a few cases three, rectangular canvases are arranged to form a frame. An irregularly distorted, hand-drawn ellipse in pencil runs across the surfaces of the painted elements, and touches variably the inner corners of the frame or the inner and outer edges of the rectangles to accentuate the surface of the painting. One of the most significant elements of these works is the relationship between the work and the gallery wall, which is encapsulated by the frame, but also surrounds the work, creating a multi-dimensional space that resonates with the works of some of Mangold’s contemporaries, such as Dan Flavin and Sol LeWitt.

A remarkable aspect of the x, + and Frame Paintings is their often imposing size and their architectural quality. Of these three series Mangold has said: ‘You always come to a dilemma at the end of a series. The image had become thinner and thinner [in the Xs and +s] and there was more and more wall. The energy was all going out. I wanted to go back circling, getting the image back into a container. So I took these four members and made frames out of them, and then used the line as a way of connecting through it.’    

This exhibition will be accompanied by a new publication on the artist’s work, co-published by Parasol unit and Koenig Books, London.