Leonid Lamm is a Moscow-born artist who emigrated to the United States in 1982 following a three-year stint in Butryka prison camp for applying for an exit visa. His first West Coast exhibit of post-exile paintings and drawings is based upon sketches conceived before and during his incarceration. The work is very uneven in both execution and concept, reflecting Lamm's inevitably stunted aesthetic development under the stifling conditions of official Soviet ideology, and his subsequent, unfocused absorption of western stylistic cliches in New York.
Lamm began his artistic career as a book illustrator, and this is obvious from the somewhat sketchy, unfinished nature of his figuration, particularly the pencil renderings of life in the prison camp, which could easily accompany a text by Kafka or Solzhenitsyn. Limitations notwithstanding, this is by far Lamm's most accomplished work, capturing at first hand the monotony, claustrophobia and dehumanization of internment. In contrast, Lamm's painterly attempts at erotic Surreal fantasies and political satire fall completely flat, opting either for easy satire or the self-indulgence of Expressionistic posturing. Although the work is partly redeemed by Lamm's sense of self-irony and conceptual distancing (he seems to be aware, for example, that so-called freedom of choice contains as many limitations as overt censorship), there is no denying its relative immaturity in both Modernist and Post-Modernist contexts. (Richard/Bennett Gallery, 332 1/2 N. La Brea Ave., to Nov. 16.)