You'd hardly expect a theme exhibition called "New Balance N.Y.-L.A." to make sense and this one doesn't. It is cursed with an adolescent self-consciousness that sinks these coastal-comparison shows because they reduce the artists of two great cities to members of rival high school football teams. It includes roughly four works each by four artists. That is not a sufficient number to tell much about the individuals except that all deal in forms of hard-edge abstraction.
Two presumably represent New York because they live there but Peter Stroud is British by origin and Eric Saxon seems to have deeper roots in San Francisco. Well, maybe it doesn't matter because there is nothing especially indigenously L.A. about the art of Edith Baumann-Hudson or Alan Wayne except they are little-known artists in a town full of little-known artists.
Maybe the show sets out to prove that there is a resurgence of abstract Minimalism after a decade of frantic Neo-Expressionism. Various artniks keep trying to make this point but it keeps sounding like a marketing tactic since we know perfectly well that hard-edge abstraction never went away to begin with.
Having vented one's spleen about the mushy premise of this exercise, it must be admitted that the work is bracing to behold. Stroud, the patriarch of the group, looks downright romantic in three purely abstract monochromes that nonetheless come across like sweet interiors by Pierre Bonnard. Saxon makes all-white compositions in geometric forms that read like crisp sculptural reliefs--a kind of Neo-Russian Avant Garde. Wayne is markedly taciturn in abutted canvases of solid gray. Baumann-Hudson paints stacks of evenly spaced horizontal bands in white and one dark color whose melange of Donald Judd and John McLaughlin is more interesting than it sounds.
When the galleries were glutted with this kind of work it could look arid and simple-minded. At the moment its rigor and clarity appear refreshingly intelligent. (Newspace Gallery, 5241 Melrose Ave., to June 28.)