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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

February 20, 1987|WILLIAM WILSON

Disciples are weak, imitative souls who loll after some charismatic guru. Right? Not all the time. Sometimes they are strong, saintly individualists who believe in ideals embodied in the leader. You get that feeling about Burgoyne Diller in a rare West Coast exhibition of 28 pieces, including half a dozen large paintings and sculpture. The rest are drawings.

Diller, who died in 1965, was a New York acolyte of Mondrian and seemed to have accepted the spartan discipline of the master's primary colors and right-angle grid so completely as to leave no room for personal distinction. But Diller realized there were many mansions in his father's rather blocky house and set up one of his own.

Diller was interested in the sensation of floating in a way that Mondrian was not. He used rectangles of pale blue and yellow against grays and whites to set up optical tensions that remind you of Hans Hofmann even before you know Diller studied with the professor of push-pull.

So is Diller's art but a hybrid of two of his gods? Maybe, but the results are so likable and ultimately personal it just doesn't matter. There's a kind of Sunday-school sweetness and purity about his soberly celebratory expressions of lyrical idealism in a whispering "Second Theme" that is all slender lines. The modesty and aptness of his upright pole of cubes or his suave Minimalist sculpture of a square with a hole restores faith in the memory that once there were artists who weren't in it for the money. (Margo Leavin Gallery, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., to March 15.)

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