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An Abstractionism Shaped by Wounded Ideals

In recent years some of our big Chelsea galleries have given us what are basically museum shows. From Gagosian, a while back, came an invaluable retrospective of Piero Manzoni, followed by a survey of late Monet paintings that felt like an impossible dream. David Zwirner now enters the modern-old-masters lists with "Ad Reinhardt," a trenchant centennial tribute to a classic American artist, and one of the best exhibitions in or out of a gallery this fall.

Of the canonical figures still routinely lumped under something called Abstract Expressionism, Reinhardt is one of the few I feel a real connection to, even affection for. Maybe this is because he avoided barroom soul-baring; or because he saw beyond local to global in art; or because he loved art with an acolyte's ardor but also clearly recognized it as a contrivance around which ego and celebrity could and would be spun.

The Zwirner show, organized by Robert Storr, critic, painter and dean of the Yale School of Art, manages to touch on all of these aspects. It's installed in three rooms, one devoted to his relatively little known graphic designs, another to his photography, and a third to his magnetic last paintings. At a glance, the three different kinds of work seem to have no obvious connection; they could be by three different people. But they were all his and all ran together, on parallel tracks for most his life.

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