Los Angeles

Ralph Johnson and Dorothy Houstoun

Comara Gallery

The first one­-man show in Los Angeles of the works of Ralph Johnson is a little disappoint­ing, probably because it has caught the artist in a period of transition. The Burning Bush of 1960 is a fine canvas; against it, most of the 1962 paintings are less convincing. Ralph Johnson has, for some time, taken his inspiration from nature but whereas the relation to the physical world was, in the earlier works, a tenuous one, it is now more immediate. It is in moving away from the almost totally abstract toward a condensation of the particular that the artist has been faced with new issues. Interestingly enough, Johnson is most successful when the move has been a radical one as in Solinas Head. It is also interesting that the rhythms of the sea coast lend themselves best to his particular approach that remains closer to the free movements of action paint­ing than to formal design. Sea Cave, Fog and Rocks and Surf all have potential. A Huntington Hartford Foundation grant brought Dorothy Houstoun to Los Angeles where her showing at the Comara Gallery in September is another first for the West Coast. Dorothy Houstoun was born in Brooklyn. Her study with such artists as Kuniyoshi, Gwathmey and Schanker was followed by five years abroad in France, Italy and Spain. In spite of this background, her painting is more American than Euro­pean and more closely allied in spirit to Arshile Gorky than to the instructors of the New School of Social Research. The Gorky influence however is found only after the first impact of her work has subsided, for her large canvases are filled with a lusty vigor that re­flects an intensity of action not found too often in women painters. Sometimes the very energy of the painting becomes overwhelming in its constant bombard­ment on the emotional sensibilities and needs the void as an effective foil.

––Constance Perkins