Emil Jean Kosa Jr. also draws on Hopper, but more deftly. The only artist with three works on display, he shows himself to be a melancholic connoisseur of understated ambiguity. Painted in the 1940s, his evocative pictures of L.A. neighborhoods capture the oddly collaged feel of the city. The sense that L.A. not only expands outward, eating up the desert, but buries the past beneath new buildings takes vivid form in "Freeway Beginning" (1948), a masterpiece of tarnished idealism and ghostly regret.
Kosa's watercolor establishes a more distant view of its subject -- an unfinished freeway cutting through the long shadows of a sunbaked landscape -- than any of the other watercolors. It functions as a bridge to the next gallery, its measured detachment becoming the cool objectivity of the nine paintings on canvas and panel made between 1950 and 1995.
No people appear in any of them. Instead, houses, highways and skies are portrayed as if they've taken on lives of their own.
Each of the images of buildings by Edward Biberman, Larry Cohen and Edward Ruscha freezes the cacophonous tumult of big city living into a moment of silent stillness that's at once serene and terrifying.