Neil Marshall was a dedicated painter as well as a terrific writer and critic. He maintained an online journal with his art and cultural criticism long before the popularity and prevalence of blogging. This entry was his review of my show at Long Fine Art in 2001. Neil died in May of 2007 and he is truly missed and I treasured his support and friendship.

Neil Marshall April 17, 2001

The James Walsh exhibition of recent paintings represents an important advance not only for him but for painting on this side of the Atlantic. With these paintings Walsh surpasses the achievement of Bram Bogart. More could be accomplished in terms of size and color, but the expressive range and formal invention of these paintings goes well beyond Bogart, and forms a profound critique of that particular vision (which of course does not belong to Bogart alone). This is not to imply however that Bogart was in any sense the original influence on Walsh. That goes to Jules Olitski. Olitski’s handling of paint has deeply influenced Walsh, who from the beginning of his career has been recognized as particularly gifted with paint, and the passion that has always been in evidence might well have taken him to these “extreme” articulations of surface and material on his own. As I have pointed out before, Olitski himself has never engaged in what art historians call “plasticity” on this scale. He appeared to broach it in the later seventies but even then, his technique of obliquely spraying paint against the textures of the painting surface created an illusion of far more material, and much greater projection of surface than in fact was actually there. Walsh’s handling of paint and the shape-formation which is its teleology and so radically distinguished him from Bogart, has always been far more literal. Literalness in fact defines his sensibility. In this, not only Olitski and Bogart must be cited as influences, but also the critic Clement Greenberg who became a close friend. Greenberg’s thinking should be considered as important an influence as these painters have been. All of it is here in this most recent work. His best exhibition to date, and the best painting in this idiom done anywhere today.

The first article by Valentin Tatransky appears in the Table of Contents of the April—June 1984 number of Art International as Five New Talents but I believe Valentin’s intended title for it was as it appeared on the lead-in page.

This article brings back Annie’s and my early days in NYC, when on any given night Valentin might show up ringing our doorbell at midnight or later. He would have in tow a group of people that he had pried from an art bar somewhere in order to show them a particular painting of ours to prove a point that he had made. It all seemed very natural then, but compared with the artworld of today the recollection of those times seems as it happened in a foreign land.

Events conspired to drive Valentin from NYC and he resided outside of Buffalo until his death early in 2009.

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ART INTERNATIONAL Volume XXVII/2 April-June 1984 by Valentin Tatransky

(Excerpt) James Walsh’s art summarizes and echoes everything I have been saying. As with DeLuccia, Nathanson, and Roth, the decisive break in his art occurred within the last two years – perhaps less radically, for he had already been painting very well before. There is in him that same complete freedom of paint-handling I’ve already noticed in the others. Although influence can be pointed to – Bannard’s – one is struck, as with DeLuccia, Nathanson and Roth, by how less format-oriented he is. Each picture is substantially different. And too, like DeLuccia, Nathanson and Roth, Walsh exploits great variation in the thickness of the paint, going from flat to thick, from smooth to rough; though now, since last summer, he has been exploiting variation of surface with greater subtlety.

Compare Walsh’s earlier The Crest to the more recent Green K – comparison is a connoisseur’s delight, marking off which is excellent from that which is very good. The Crest is a harmony of green and orange, which at one point builds to a great thickness. In a way – and only the superior merit of Green K tells us this – the surface of The Crest is too heavy, the high relief actually canceling some of the range of values, creating too stark a contrast between light and dark. Green K has a much broader resonance: the feathery surface of Green K: the combination is at once tough and delicate, all its silvery rows glistening in a sea of green.
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October 1985

This exhibition marks the debut of an important young painter. James Walsh is about 30 years old, and already has created an impressive body of work. As befits a young artist, he is not an even painter; not all his works are perfect. He is still in the process of feeling his way about, which is as it should be, but there is more to this than the mere fact of youth, and that has to do with Walsh’s character: why he paints the way he paints.

Walsh is primarily an innovator, an experimenter. He paints in that way which gives him the most freedom. He enjoys too much the sheer act of painting to be a man haunted by images. He demonstrated here how much further the medium of paint can be pushed as pigment in terms of pictorial possibilities. Most of the pieces in this show were painted with only a few colors: pumpkin, black, and white. It’s that earth harmony we associate with Cubism, Pollock, Rembrandt, and the very earth itself. It allows for greater freedom, intensity, as if the artist wanted to exhume the essential character of the art.

The best paintings Thrion and Tarfu, are ambitious not only because of the traditions they carry on, but because of the synthesis they represent of various currents in our strongest school. More specifically, they represent a breaking away from Walsh’s earlier influence, notably Bannard, to a more fundamental engagement with Pollock. The astonishing thing about Thrion is its freedom. It differs from all the others having the same colors in that it looks the least “composed.” Tarfu, on the other hand, shows that Walsh can compose a picture with recognizable pictorial features, such as foreground, background, and highlights, without interrupting the ease of his paint handling. Olitski was the first to handle paint in such a thick way, with Pollock’s freedom, and Walsh carries it on admirably.

This exhibition proves that Walsh is not simply one of the finest young painters around today, but one of the most ambitious, and one of the most serious. (Joan Prats, February 2 -23)