Los Angeles

Lorser Feitelson

Ankrum Gallery

An ideated rather than a sensible uni­verse looms out of Feitelson’s paint­ings. However these two-dimensional essences are surprisingly limited, seem­ing to have been arrived at by reduction rather than illumination. The epic of the two-dimensional picture plane has been recited since its formation in Cubism. Each new bard of the flat surface, in adding his own voice to the cycle, nat­urally affected the theme. Thus the heroic constructions of the beginning of this century gave way to the metaphysi­cal myths of a Mondrian or Gabo. Feitel­son, by creating lyrical ballads, con­tinues the cycle in diminished but re­fined measures. The elegant effect of his smooth surfaces and graceful forms is a very discreet voluptuousness which turns charming when the color begins to resemble Neapolitan ice cream. By fixing his quest for ideal form in the interstices of negative and positive pic­torial space, Feitelson often becomes esthetically near-sighted. Many of the current Magical Space Forms are rari­fied reminiscences of the slender female limbs and hips he painted with such affection in the 1914 Bathers or the early Genesis. Now, contingent upon the forms’ degree of swelling, the em­bracing color varies, so that on succeed­ing canvases as the shape tapers the color changes, from a swinging red, to modest blue, to sylphic yellow. Such minikin concerns have a certain nicety, but Feitelson, who justifiably holds an important and respected place among American painters, should not sustain the torpor that these works disclose. 

With regard to technique, contempo­rary valuation has arrived at the critical position of accepting any method, pro­vided the result seems consistent with the process. Therefore the fact that Feitelson’s hard edges seem to have been painted against some sort of pat­tern (close scrutiny reveals both a pull­away ridge and some small runners), does not condemn the paintings, but it does draw them closer to a designer’s concept of clarity. Perhaps cleanliness is really next to godliness, and the ab­sence of the human tremor a requisite to pictorial Platonism. At his best, Feitel­son either transfixes the stillness and equilibrium in nature through images that maintain their poised encounter when viewed from any of the four sides, or he concentrates on the tensions of proximity. A fine example of the latter, is a painting where five dentoid projec­tions obtrude into the rectangle; a con­tinuously vibrating dialogue is created between the grey slabs bent on reaching one another and the vivid orange leap­ing them apart. 

Rosalind G. Wholden