Mixed Doubles

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Adjacent to "Untitled Diptych" is the 1968 "Untitled" oil on canvas; again, the two panels of this diptych are of different sizes and are hung on the diagonal. On the left is a small square composition dominated by a yellowish-orange and accented with red and blue. A larger version of the same composition is on the right. "Untitled" is one of two diptychs that were meant to be triptychs. "I can't find the third part," confesses Yust.

Around the corner is "Partial Symmetry and Yin Yang," from 1969, done in acrylic on canvas. The two parts of this black-and-white diptych have been placed one above the other, and each has been hung on the diagonal. "Partial Symmetry and Yin Yang" marks the first time that Yust employed tape to mask off sections of the painting during its creation. "At first I thought that using tape was cheating. Then I realized that it's not the technical aspects that make something special, it's the concept underneath," Yust says. "If a clean edge is needed, it makes sense to use tape."

Next up is the acrylic on canvas "Circular Composition," also done in 1969 and carried out in black and white. "Circular Composition" is the other truncated triptych recast as a diptych that's included in the exhibit. In this case, the whereabouts of the third panel is known, but it's been damaged through careless handling and remains in storage in a private collection. "It's in such bad shape; it needs to be completely repainted," Yust says with a sigh of resignation. The remaining two panels have been rejoined for the first time in decades for this exhibit. Each has been isolated in a different private collection since they were sold separately immediately after being completed.

"Circular Composition" comprises a pair of tondos, so it not only sports circular compositions, but the shapes of the two canvases are also circular. It may be hard to see, but "Circular Composition" is about symmetry, according to Yust. The black forms on the white ground are similar but not identical. They are sinuous and circuitous, almost art-nouveau in spirit--or maybe even psychedelic. When "Circular Composition" was completed, the appeal of the shape became great for Yust, and he began an exploration of it that lasted for more than ten years, during which time he worked almost exclusively with the shape. It's still a main current in his work, but it's no longer the only form he uses.

The show then takes up a group of diptych prints. Beginning in 1978, Yust began to do paired lithographic monotypes pulled by Bud Shark, the master printer at the world-famous Shark Lithography in Lyons (formerly in Boulder). The idea was to print the same image using the same inks on two different colors of paper (black and white). The colors of the inks vary greatly, and the resulting paired prints look entirely different from one another. In one of the first of these diptychs, "C.C. #120, (C-Noir, C-W)," the black print is hung over the white one. The top features metallic-green copper tones, the bottom rich reds, blues and purples. "No one would believe that red turns green on a piece of black paper," Yust says. "And it's surprising, but the inks aren't really metallic. The bronzing was caused by the effect of the ink on the black paper." Unfortunately, these diptychs never caught on with collectors. "People always preferred the white print to the black one and didn't appreciate what I was trying to do," Yust says.

The paired circular prints led to a radical shift in Yust's work in 1983, when he completed the "Alpha Inclusion" diptych. In that piece, Yust glued a partial sheet of black paper to a full sheet of white. But when he printed the first page, the ink no longer turned metallic when it was applied to the black section. It turned out that the manufacturer, d'Arches of France, had changed the sizing it used on the black paper. "It's how life works: You start out to do something, and then you need to change your approach," Yust says philosophically. To correct the problem, he made some post-printing changes, including the application of colored bronze powders to re-create the metallic effect seen in the earlier prints.

The "Alpha Inclusion" prints were unusual not just because of the joined paper, but because they were also rectangular. "I had been known for circles for some time and had attained great success with them," recalls Yust, "so I didn't get a lot of support for these pieces. I chose to upset my own apple cart. A colleague said it was like having his best friend turn into a Hare Krishna." Though at the time it may have seemed that the "Alpha Inclusion" prints were really out of left field, they were actually predicted by the oldest piece in the show, the similar "Untitled Diptych." But that piece was more than twenty years old and had been long forgotten by the time "Alpha Inclusion" was unveiled.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia