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The Galleries

La Cienega Area

June 24, 1988|WILLIAM WILSON

Craig Kauffman was one of the originals of the '60s Finish Fetish movement that put Los Angeles on the art map. Although he became noted for big lozenge-shaped plastic bubbles, he started as a painter and finally returned to that first love. Recent large works on silk are nominally abstract but look rather like rickety cages or uneasy house-framing. Struts are white with broken outlines and halations of pastel colors that stain out delicately.

There's a curious combination of eccentricity and elegance here, as if a mellow and sophisticated Kauffman reminisced on the good old days. Compositions recall the artist's early interest in architecture, his paintings' structure, the craftsman sensibility of his old gallery mate Ed Moses and the gelatinous space of John Altoon's paintings.

Kauffman at 56 is a mature master, but something uneasy stirs within these paintings, as if he might be headed for a late breakthrough in the fashion of Philip Guston.

Richard Ross lives in Santa Barbara but travels the museums of Europe taking color photos of sections of Old Master paintings which he enlarges and assembles into blurry triptychs. Those on view suggest the recent fashion for appropriating existing art as a way of expressing discouragement about the possibility of originality. Luckily Ross brings meanings of his own to his pilfered images. Snippets of Netherlandish, Baroque and salon art come together as a romantic rumination on the lush sensuality of traditional painting. Montage scenarios are suggested in series like that moving from a man's chin to a Bible-big book to a female nude's enticing hind quarters. It all seems to be about a guy trying to get his mind on higher ground, only to discover that paradise is right here in the flesh. (Asher/Faure, 612 N. Almont Drive, to Saturday.)

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