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THE ART GALLERIES

Wilshire Center

April 04, 1986|COLIN GARDNER

Werner Drewes is something of an anomaly among the Bauhaus generation of German artists. Although he studied under Klee, Kandinsky and Feininger, from whom he absorbed many of the tenets of abstraction and the social idealism of Russian Constructivism, Drewes, who died last year, found it difficult to suppress a natural, albeit revisionist, expressionist personality. This manifested itself through a dogged commitment to painting and printmaking, activities clearly at odds with the more purist and functional Bauhaus doctrines. After extensive world travels, during which he developed an interest in landscape and figurative art, Drewes emigrated to the United States in 1930, subsequently becoming a founding member, with Josef Albers, of American Abstract Artists.

Spanning more than 50 years, this selective retrospective of Drewes' prints, paintings, collages, drawings and watercolors clearly underlines both stylistic simultaneity and formal continuity. Colorful early abstracts explore the dynamics of light, transparency and spatial dislocations but they are marked by a bouncy, internal rhythm of form and gesture, as if the organic, airy flamboyance of mentors Kandinsky or Klee were being reined in by the tight compositional sense of Feininger and Moholy-Nagy.

More recent collages and woodcuts from the 1970s and '80s indicate that Drewes lately preferred to begin from the sensuous, expressive possibilities of the rural and urban landscape or the figure, and then superimpose a formalist aesthetic. These semi-geometric compositions, a combination of surreal biomorphism and de-Stijl abstraction, create a potent metaphor for the power of technology in a chaotic world: kinetic turmoil mitigated by monumental equilibrium. Although Drewes' synthesis occasionally slips into historical mannerism, he was certainly much more than a Bauhaus clone turned expressionist/colorist, predating current post-modernist pluralism with an aesthetic hybrid clearly his own. (Tobey C. Moss, 7321 Beverly Blvd., to April 30.)

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