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THE ART GALLERIES

Wilshire Center

January 31, 1986|KRISTINE MCKENNA

If a New York abstractionist moved to the Mojave Desert, the resulting work might approximate that by James Hueter. This senior Southern California artist makes tastefully discreet paintings that feel distinctly Pacific; they appear cool and relaxed, yet an underlying current of tension keeps them standing nervously at attention.

For the last two decades Hueter has concerned himself with, as he puts it, "the representation of visages as anonymous landscapes." Employing a centered spine of metal, carved wood, glass or plastic to establish the architecture of the face, Hueter assembles highly abstracted portraits that read either as elegant triptychs or whimsical collages framed under glass. Hueter handles his materials quite well and has an impeccably tuned sense of color and composition; muted tones graduated so subtly that the shift is hard to see with the naked eye, and tiny rainbows hover in pockets and crevices. The delicacy of Hueter's work (not to mention those rainbows) puts one in mind of Kurt Schwitters, but whereas Schwitters was playful, occasionally almost vulgar, Hueter makes meditative work that is fetishistically clean and pure. (Tobey C. Moss, 7321 Beverly Blvd., to March 1.)

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