Hans Van Werengrick for Gyora Novak's "One Man Show",
Gallery 10, The Jewish Museum 1964

 

Gyora Novak Portrait for the Gallery 10 "One Man Show" by Photographer Hans Namuth

 
A Disciplined Romantic

Novak's studio has the feeling of a chemistry or a physics laboratory. One half expects a blackboard on the wall on which involved equations will outline the work and thought for the next day. Brilliantly lit with rows of floodlights which can be carefully controlled from a central panel, his basement working space has an other-worldly quality. Shelves with neatly labeled cans of paint in straight rows are waiting their turn to be used in their foreordained spaces on canvases stretched according to precise measurements. Palette knives, brushes and other tools are ready to be used. The entire place exudes an air of orderliness and precision. One has the feeling that it is constantly ready for inspection and that it would pass the severest test by even the sternest of top sergeants. As a matter of fact, Gyora Novak, like all young Israelis, spent a good deal of time in his country's armed service, but unlike others, he relished the experience and felt at home with strict army discipline. His love of order and discipline is not the result of army life, but rather a part of his very being.

This is evidenced by his work, which at first glance looks almost mathematical in its exactness. Squares drawn with razor-sharp edges, harder, if possible, than those of the hard-edge school of painting; canvases which are perfect circles (a discipline in itself to stretch a perfect, circular canvas); sculptures out of stainless steel which rival precision instruments in their gleaming beauty. The puritanical paintings of the Dutch "De stijl" painters, Mondriaan and Van der Leck, come to mind as well as the variations upon a theme by the American artist, Katherine Dreier. When looking closer at his work, however, Novak's paintings begin to assume a different quality. One becomes aware of tensions of almost explosive force. Circles enclose components which are in a constant state of motion, like the molecules which make up a steel cannon ball. Squares, which at first appeared static, move in a stately dance of ever-changing relationships. Stainless steel bars are interrelated in a sensuous intimacy of which the unyielding quality of the material seems incapable. There is an inevitability in the organization in Novak's work which is as logical as the asymmetry of a growing tree. His paintings and sculptures are not "about" things, but are natural things in themselves. Their sense of growth is such that the beholder feels that he knows what is coming, after having seen only part of a series of paintings or sculptures, in the same way that a listener sometimes knows the next part of a tune he has never heard before. A clue might be found in a statement which Novak wrote in 1959 and which was used in a discussion during the Paris Biennale at which his work was shown. "Our eyes raised to the sky find eternal diversity in cloud formations and in all that lies between them and the sun, revolving with it around the axis which separates our days. All changes endlessly without return." Far from being stereotype, Novak's work is highly individual. It's feeling and imagination are extremely romantic in the stress of self in thought and expression. Further clues can be found in titles he gives to each series of his paintings, and sculptures ---"Twin Leaves," "Hay Rows," Experience of the Little Hours," "Birthday Present," and other similar titles might well be those of a book of romantic poetry. The consistent and rapid development of this young artist's work promises much for the future.

Hans van Weeren-Griek
The Jewish Museum Director
 

About Novak's Artwork

Hans Van Werengrick for The Jewish Museum | Paul Jenkins, Artist | Tiffany Bell for The Empire State Collection

Gordon Washburn, Director of Asia House, Art Exhibitions | Dorothy Miller, Curator of Modern Art, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Arthur Drexler, Director Dept. of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Barnett Glimpsher, The Pace Gallery | Barnett Newman, Artist

 

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