Leon Kossoff: Affirmation in Truce

Leon Kossoff, Outside Kilburn Underground Station, 1984, oil on board, 77 1/2 x
Leon Kossoff, Outside Kilburn Underground Station, 1984, oil on board, 77 1/2 x 83 7/8 inches (courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash)

Thaddeus Radell reviews the exhibition Leon Kossoff: London Landscapes at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, on view through December 21, 2013.

Radell writes: "After discovering a motif, his London Landscapes, for example, [Kossoff] attempts to understand what its meaning is to him. Even more important than the visual impact of its inherent form and physicality, even more important than visualizing a synthesis of its spatial possibilities, Kossoff considers its ontological claim on him. This meaning is never easily excavated from the highly complex motifs that appeal to him, and his method is to attempt to decipher it through numerous, and seemingly ferocious, essays of prolonged and rigorous contact. Fought through and through, session after session, the paper becomes battered and scarred, a dense testament and homage to Sisyphean effort... From each effacement follows a new heroic effort, a fresh initiative to discover a more profound resolution of his distinctive graphic phrasing—a drawing that will cohere more stringently to an ineffable meaning he only hopes to unearth. Indeed, one feels that Kossoff arrives more at a truce with his image than a resolution."