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November 06, 1987|MARLENA DONOHUE

K. H. Hodicke is something of a granddad and mentor to a generation of contemporary German Neo-Expressionists. He galvanizes a centuries-old Northern penchant for brooding, personalized style but his version of Expressionism is less belabored, less self-suffering, with moments of very unNeo-Ex clarity and even, heaven forbid, charm.

"Halloween" is a bright animated canvas crammed with colorful lanterns and an everyman Pierrot type that is more blissfully guileless than anguished. In "Fiery Crocodile" a hook-nosed clown strikes an uneasy truce with a bright red, fork tongued reptile. Both materialize out of a molten, swirly background to bring home the fact that for Hodicke, unlike his predecessors, the paint--its swishing, dripping tangibility--is as much the subject as any presumed story line. In several works, Hodicke borrows from early themes with dark urban landscapes, seedy bare-bulb lighting and shadowy figures lurking in off-kilter windows.

This take on Expressionism is somehow academic and grand and seems unimaginable without the lessons of scale, gestural bravura and guided excess borrowed from our own Abstract Expressionists. The bad news is that sometimes, as in "Feeding," excess is misguided and turns into Teutonic over-kill. (L.A. Louver Gallery, 77 Market St., to Nov. 28.)

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