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The Art Galleries

Hollywood

September 18, 1987|MARLENA DONOHUE

It is difficult to separate the late Frederick Wight as prodigious man--author, art historian, lecturer, museologist and art impresario--from his painting. In a current show, the task is particularly loaded with issues of homage because exhibited works are the last of his life.

Judging from the works on view--high-keyed amorphous landscapes with multiple suns, electric Joshuas and palms--his waning years only intensified his special brand of ethereal visionary realism. Whatever detractors may say about his work, Wight kept searching to the end. The warm palette of the California works exhibited in the early '80s gave way in these final canvases to saturated, jarring turquoise blues and odd, pasty reds. Only an artist who had long lived impervious to fads and who had "come out the other end" of his creative odyssey could use these unfashionable colors with such conviction. His surfaces--washy and thin--seem about to float away and Wight frames scenes in grottolike edges of color for an otherworldly effect. Regeneration was always an implicit theme; here it is manifest in deep plum fields where one moon sprouts another as if by mitosis.

The pieces that do not work impact us like a raw nerve exposed to too much pressure; those that do transmit all the reverent awe and strength Wight garnered from nature and his passion for painting. (Newspace, 5241 Melrose Ave., to Oct. 10.)

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