Coming to Paris on a GI bill and with a painting practice firmly rooted in figuration, the American painter Al Held arrived at the renowned Académie de la Grande Chaumière in 1951 and immediately switched gears to a highly impastoed abstraction. Al Held Paris paintings are now subject to a small but focused show at Nathalie Karg Gallery. Almost entirely done in a broodingly dark color palette, (except for one autumn brown Paul Klee-like patchwork painting) the works display a viscous apocalyptic rawness interspersed by horizonal eruptions of bright color that supply bursts of vivacious energy. Accompanying ink studies of the works suggest barbed wire or Japanese symbols gone awry. These early works are a poignant reminder of the relentless innovation and about-faces of Held’s multi-faceted painting oeuvre which ranged from social realism to hard-edged geometric abstraction and throughout which he never lost sight of a deep commitment to the perceptual, spatial and ocular elements of painting. A selection of Al Held’s paintings that cover the years from 1954 until 1959 will be shown at Cheim & Reid through July 6. At Nathalie Karg through June 15.