There is a mythic quality to a wrinkly piece of paper on which Willem de Kooning splattered the image of a wide-bodied woman in 1954. By then he had been exploring her contours for several years in paintings. Why did he decide to let her erupt on paper? In those broad, curving lines of brown ink bleeding into spiky points, an ungainly American goddess takes one of her final bows before her creator turned--temporarily--to purely abstract compositions.
In a show of abstract work from the '50s, certain small gestures are as enduring as large ones. Jackson Pollock's little painting, "Number 26" from 1949, is an airy, spattered tracery in ochre, black and orange. The ochre loops are imprinted by a chance meeting with some textured object; the orange slows down to form a pool with the consistency of caked mud.
A small untitled Joan Mitchell work from about 1955 is a soft-spoken, inward-looking thing, its thin brush strokes and trails of impasto hushed by blurred areas and a shy beige-white tonality.
Even in "Struktur," a painting just about twice the size of an art magazine cover, Franz Kline's calligraphic black bridgework looms large.
Among the more spacious works, Richard Pousette-Dart's "No. 1" of 1951 is a standout, with its thickly brushed stacks of vaguely ideographic black-outlined signs and territories of white paint oozing into pyramids. Lee Krasner is well served here, too, with "Desert Moon" from 1955, in which torn pieces of fuchsia-painted paper and strong black verticals chirp harshly on an orange-over-purple ground.
Other first and second-generation New York School painters in this nostalgia-inducing show include Conrad Marca-Relli, James Brooks, Grace Hartigan, Michael Goldberg, Emerson Woelffer, Alfred Leslie and Milton Resnick. (Manny Silverman Gallery, 800 N. La Cienega Blvd., to June 4.)