PRINT December 1966

Anthony Magar and Forrest Myers at Dwan

THE NEW CURRENTS IN American sculpture appear to have converged upon geometry. Taking as a start the work of Gabo, Pevsner, Albers, David Smith, Anthony Caro, et al, the younger sculptors seem to have been rushing out to the machine shops and commissioning elegant abstractions of steel and aluminum, and defending the invasion as a function of contemporary scientific and mathematical thought. The approach seems to be a justification of art through science. But, art as a visual, tactile experience cannot be dealt with entirely in terms of intellectual patterns. In the end the product, the finished work of art must survive by its look and feel in the environment of a more generalized contemporary consciousness.

The work itself must be scrutinized, particularly because the extreme simplicity of much of the new structural sculpture demands close attention to detail. If a flat surface of metal is covered with a single color, and the texture of that surface is left uneven, even subtly so, questions are raised. If a welded joint shows its scars, the meaning of those scars must be examined relative to the entire piece. Craft, an element that has been subordinated in recent years, becomes, in this machine-age art, of critical importance.

Anthony Magar, a young member of the Park Place group, works in the realm of a geometry that combines planes with solid forms in a contained manner. His sculptures at the Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles, are streamlined and, of course, as a function of the machine cut, geometric elements, have an elegance. The planes, those portions where solidity is not the major interest, are unpainted stainless steel, while the more solid elements are of a single dark color. The painted surfaces, particularly in his largest piece in the exhibition, For Liz, are visibly uneven, as are his welded joints. This seems to imply a kind of hanging-on to the traditions of Abstract Expressionism, but becomes, in the context of this highly mechanistic form, a vain attempt to show the hand of the artist. If the intent was to supply the pieces with a personal toughness, the idea fails because the geometries overpower this idea and lead the viewer to think of sloppy workmanship before he recognizes the artist behind the steel mask. The problem with Magar’s work is that it fails to go far enough in any direction and ends by being little more than pleasant main stream sculpture that fails either to please or offend.

Forrest Myers, on the other hand, shows work that offers immediate pleasure. His work is elegant, colorful and large, but after the immediate hedonistic response new demands arise and the work does not seem to be willing to reach beyond the easy first reaction. His large polychrome aluminum constructions are well made and complete. The problem lies in the fact that they tend to be too complete. They take no risks. They follow a logic of construction and color that is too pat. One finds no challenge, no new idea to do battle with. His closed system leaves the viewer out, undisturbed and only mildly pleased. There is cleverness and wit, but at this stage of an artist’s career one would expect a deeper reach into newer territory.

Don Factor