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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

May 08, 1987|KRISTINE McKENNA

Abstract painting is enshrined in all its regal grandeur in an exhibition of new work by 11 artists. With Neo-Geo upstarts like Peter Halley running around appropriating this venerated style only to give it a raspberry, the work in this show seems embarrassingly solemn and straightforward. It's considered to be a bit outre to be sincere these days, so these paintings seem a trifle out of step with the times; nonetheless, these new old masters have genuine weight and resonance and it seems likely that their shelf life will exceed that of the current wave of Simulationist rip-offs that parody them.

Like formal meditations on the capacity of the human mind to wrestle with (and occasionally hogtie) abstract theory, these austere paintings invite us to worship at the temple of Modernism. Curated with a bias towards large geometric abstractions, the show is built on a reverence for art history that seems downright quaint at the moment. A black, white and rust cross by Harvey Quaytman echoes Malevich, while Richard Tobias pays his respects to Mondrian with a black, white, yellow and pink maze titled "Imperial." Alan Uglow shows "Remembrancer," a throbbing field of intensely saturated red that's tethered to the wall by four small rectangles of white positioned at each corner of the canvas, and John Amleder offers 25 large black dots lined up like soldiers on a gray field.

Thoroughly resolved marvels of disciplined thought, the paintings are purged of any hedonistic impulse; the one exception to that rule is an untitled work by Nicholas Wilder. A vertical canvas shaped like an arched doorway serves as the ground for a beautifully colored target finished with a luscious surface evocative of Jasper Johns. It's a stunningly handsome picture and it comes off here like a courtesan in the company of an order of Jesuit priests. (Asher/Faure, 612 N. Almont Drive, to May 16.)

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