The New York School is dying, but Ray Parker is still kicking. Perhaps because they summon waves of sweet nostalgia, his abstract "action paintings" are well thought of in Manhattan. But they do not travel well.
Thirty-four of them, all new, are now on exhibition at the Phillips Collection here. They diminish one another. The Parker show is messy, tedious and dull.
He makes his pictures quickly, often squeezing color directly from the tube. Parker seems to be striving for immediacy, but his paintings look old fashioned.One senses heavy ghosts, particularly Rothko's, tugging at his wrist.
Pictures may succeed in a thousand ways, but the sort Ray Parker paints depend on only two. Either you respond to the passion that is in them, to their unfettered freedom, or you may be moved by the chords their colors strike. The pictures at the Phillips fail on both counts.
The more of them you see, the less free they appear. Parker paints to formula. First he crowds his canvases with scribbled blocks of color; then he takes his paint tubes and finishes the picture with a few squeezed, colored lines.
Lovely, singing colors could have saved his paintings, but Parker, like so many other New York painters, seems to have a preference for heavy, sooty hues. There is about his moody reds and his greenish purples something sad and shadowed. These paintings miss the sun.
In her catalog introduction, critic Barbara Rose gives the artist credit for "years of consistently fine painting." "Parker," Rose contends, "is a consummately sophisticated painter." I don't buy it. His pictures seem to me arch and academic. they will be on view through Nov. 25.