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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

May 29, 1987|COLIN GARDNER

It was perhaps inevitable that the rampant cynicism currently pervading the art scene should provoke a backlash. Recently, this has taken the form of a revived interest in Modernist abstraction. This is not the simulation or appropriation of "Neo Geo," but rather a continuation of the tenets that define Modernism itself: a heroic sense of forward progress, integrity and transcendence. Judging from Ron Janowich's latest series of shaped canvases, however, the movement is essentially a defensive one, drawing as it does on an outmoded historicism in order to inject new life into sleepy formalism.

Janowich pays lip service to the Greenbergian credo in the form of an energetic dialectic between overall shape (cut out diamond, circular and rectangular geometries) and the painterly surfaces that they contain. Yet he seems to recognize that this is no longer enough, for the work draws upon a number of old rhetorical devices in an attempt to undermine formalism's obsession with clinical frontality and denial of spatial depth.

Janowich employs black oil to create a sense of luminescence and resonance, misty sfumato to evoke a Romantic aura of the sublime, and implanted geometries to suggest Romanesque arches and Byzantine icons. Abstraction is thus rescued by turning it into a spiritual allegory. Rather than suggest inherent vigor and vitality, this sounds ominously like an epitaph. (Asher/Faure, 612 N. Almont Dr., to June 20.)

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