Los Angeles

Morris Broderson

Ankrum Gallery

Seeing this exhibition one quickly comes to realize that Broderson is an artist of tragic innocence. Tragic, because one is struck with the immediacy of a profound pictorial loneliness and a rare, pure, deep-welled search for spiritual understanding. Innocence, because both on human and formal levels, he is a child seeking a soul. He tries to objectify what his visions report. To his advantage, and a fortunate consequence of this dilemma, is that he interprets this world without moral judgement, and his commentaries are based on conviction that is a joy to behold. The exhibition, an enormous tour de force, fills three galleries, and is the result of, and was executed since, a trip to Rome last summer. Twenty oils and 27 pastels and drawings deal mostly with the theme of prayer and supplication. In conveying his feelings about these subjects, Broderson has invented a symbolic language of visual communication that includes graphic signs for representing such intangibles as thought, reverence, emotion, etc. In one painting, Man Praying, for example, he renders a peculiar cubist breaking up of planes and colors emanating from the man’s mouth (representing an oral communication) and extending towards a cross. This special kind of literalization is his own pictorial innovation and is an integral part of his mystique. Broderson’s paint is thinly applied; it is also unpainterly, his palette is arbitrary. In sum, he has not really developed as a painter yet. He uses color nuances instead of dynamic color transitions. Stylistically, this may suit his unpretentious needs at present but if he is to grow as an artist of stature he must come to meatier grips with his medium. For this reason, there is a good deal more urgency, more directness and more power in his drawings. One of many examples of this point is Pink Scarf, the drawing of which is infinitely more sensitive than the painting of the same theme. The spontaneous drama of black and white he produces with the added subtle touch of luminous pastel colors, makes for a visual effect that is at once startingly fresh, vital, and meaningful. One leaves this exhibition with mixed feelings. Though a probing new imagery has been created, the uneven quality of the totality is disappointing. Nonetheless, it must be noted that the pictorial truths revealed in such works as Death of a Picador (oil), and the drawings Lines of Communion, Italian Nuns, and Seated Figure and Chairs, are of such truly remarkable power that they stand out as unforgettable experiences.

Arthur Secunda