There may be a concise, respectable survey of Keith Crown's painting inside the great big flabby retro at the Municipal Art Gallery, but it's impossible to find it.
A tightly edited show would not prove the veteran painter to be a modern master or even a local luminary. It might, however, demonstrate that he has had more on his mind for the last 40 years than churning out colorful celebrations of landscape. The retrospective (through Sept. 13) cancels out Crown's strengths as a watercolorist by making him appear undisciplined--little more than a gussied-up John Marin.
A line of type saying "I arrived in L.A. the summer of 1946" leads into the show and sets us up for a personal saga. Instead we get incoherent clumps of work (occasionally accompanied by comments from the artist) arranged by medium or overlapping chronology.
A 1949 oil, "Redondo Beach Stonehenge," presents Crown at his most illusionistic, painting an imposing structure that recedes into the distance. Even in this early work, his tendency toward fussiness is evident. A little background figure and linear wave patterns undercut a powerful architectonic structure. Later, he couldn't resist adding feathers to paintings and giving his work the flavor of New Year's parties, complete with confetti-like showers of color.